Bruins blank Ovechkin, beat Capitals 4-3 in SO

tim thomas.jpgThe story of this game was supposed to be about Alex Ovechkin’s race for the Rocket Richard and Art Ross trophies. After all, the two teams had nothing to play for; win or lose the Capitals would remain the East’s top seed and the Bruins are still in the sixth spot.

Yet, instead of being a bleary-eyed yawn fest, the final regular season NBC game morphed into a shootout thriller. Both Vezina winner turned backup Tim Thomas (34 out of 37 saves) and Semyon Varlamov (35 out of 38 saves) played well with Thomas looking especially sharp. In the beginning, it looked like this was going to be another Game of the Week slugfest, but it seemed like Thomas’ fisticuffs with Jason Chimera became the catalyst for the game to shift from goal scoring to goal stopping.

Struggling sniper Michael Ryder scored the Bruins’ first two goals and Marco Sturm tied the game with his team-leading 22nd goal (to give you an idea of how different these two teams are, Washington has 6 players with more goals than Sturm and Mike Green isn’t far behind with 19 tallies). Alex Semin started the scoring with his 40th of the season. The Capitals then received offensive support from two underrated players in Eric Belanger and a great deflection goal by Mike Knuble.

You’d expect the two teams to let up in this one, but that was far from the case. Mike Green nearly injured himself when he blocked a shot in overtime. The game needed to be decided by a shootout in which both David Krejci and Miroslav Satan absolutely undressed Varlamov with some sick backhand goals.

All of a sudden, the Bruins are on a roll going into the playoffs. The sixth seed is 6-3-1 in their last 10 games with a three game winning streak. Even if the Capitals weren’t in full-on attack mode, one has to wonder if today’s New Jersey-Buffalo second seed deciding game will take more meaning because the Bruins might just be the lower-ranked team to avoid in the East.

Either way, it was a great way to close out NBC’s regular season coverage. Who’s ready for the playoffs? (Raises hand.)

Scroll Down For:

    WATCH LIVE: St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars – Game 1

    St. Louis Blues' Jay Bouwmeester (19) checks Dallas Stars' Valeri Nichushkin (43), of Russia, during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)
    AP Photo
    Leave a comment

    They were the top teams in the Western Conference during the regular season, with 109 and 107 points, respectively. And now, the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues clash with a second-round series in the playoffs. You can catch Game 1 between these Central Division foes on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Some links to check out for tonight’s game:

    Stars expect Seguin to miss at least first two games of Blues series

    Here are PHT’s second-round playoff predictions

     

    Canucks sign free agent goalie and Mike Richter Award nominee Garteig

    Quinnipiac goalie Michael Garteig (34) eyes a save on a shot by North Dakota during the first period of an NCAA Frozen Four championship college hockey game Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
    AP Photo
    1 Comment

    Nine days after getting prized prospect goalie Thatcher Demko under contract, the Vancouver Canucks have inked another college puck stopper.

    The Canucks have signed college free agent goalie Michael Garteig to a one-year entry-level contract, the team announced Friday. Garteig recently completed his senior year with Quinnipiac University, which won the ECAC championship but lost the NCAA championship game to North Dakota earlier this month.

    Garteig, 24, posted a 32-4-7 record with a .924 save percentage and a career best eight shutouts this season. He was also once again nominated for the 2016 Mike Richter Award.

    Sabres extend Larsson: one year, $950,000

    BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Johan Larsson #22 of the Buffalo Sabres warms up before the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed forward Johan Larsson to a one-year contract.

    Larsson was eligible to become a restricted free agent once his contract expired this summer. The Swedish-born player is coming off a season in which he set career bests with 10 goals, 17 points and 74 games. He also finished tied with rookie center Jack Eichel in scoring five game-winning goals.

    Overall, he has 16 goals and 21 assists in 142 games for the Sabres.

    Buffalo acquired Larsson in a trade that sent former Sabres captain Jason Pominville to Minnesota in April 2013. The Wild selected Larsson in the second round of the 2010 draft.

    Contractual details, per the Buffalo News:

    Burke: Once a team picks first overall, no more drafting first overall (for a few years at least)

    Calgary Flames' President of Hockey Operations & acting GM, Brian Burke speaks to the media as team members show up for NHL hockey season-end activities in Calgary, Alberta, on Monday, April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal)
    AP
    17 Comments

    Brian Burke isn’t trying to pick on the Edmonton Oilers — no really, he isn’t — but Calgary’s president of hockey ops doesn’t believe any team should get to draft first overall as much as his northern rivals have done the past few years.

    “If you’re a team that picks first overall, you shouldn’t be allowed to pick first overall for some specified period … three years or five years, whatever … or even the top two teams, pick in the top two,” Burke told the Flames’ website.

    “You could still pick four or five, still get a good player, but you can’t get rewarded for continued failure, or continued luck.”

    The Oilers, of course, picked first overall in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015. And after yet another dismal season in 2015-16, they have a 13.5 percent of winning’s tomorrow’s lottery and getting the same privilege again

    “Everyone thinks when you talk about the draft having flaws, that you’re picking on Edmonton,” said Burke.

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

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

    And many would agree with Burke.

    In fact, many would go a lot further, suggesting the entire system should be rethought.

    But the question will remain, what’s a better system? The current one incentivizes losing, and so some teams tank. They may not use the word “tanking,” but they’re sure not trying to win. Not in the short term.

    Now, is it a good look for the NHL when teams are built to be bad and we see fans openly rooting for losses? No, it’s not a good look.

    But would it be preferable for each team to have the same odds of drafting first overall. Even the Stanley Cup champion?

    Imagine for a moment a system that didn’t take the standings into account. You just know there’d be some poor franchise that was chronically unlucky, year after year after year. And you just know there’d be some ultra-lucky franchise, too.

    The fact is, as long as the NHL wants to maintain its competitive balance — and remember, there’s nothing the NHL is prouder of than its precious parity — losing teams will be rewarded in the draft.

    Burke is fine with that.

    All he’s saying is the current system could use a few tweaks.

    And if the Oilers win the lottery tomorrow, you can bet there’ll be some.