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.)

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    WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning – Game 6

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22:  Tyler Johnson #9 of the Tampa Bay Lightning collides with Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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    Tonight could be the final game of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

    Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m. ET)

    The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Bolts lead the series 3-2.

    Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s game:

    Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6

    Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee

    Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason

    Marc-Andre Fleury: ‘I should have been better’ in Game 5

    Will Ward be back with Carolina? Francis discusses ‘interesting summer’

    NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 29:  Cam Ward #30 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 29, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Hurricanes 3-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Honestly, if you look at Cam Ward‘s numbers, it’s difficult to imagine the Carolina Hurricanes signing him to another contract.

    (Unless perhaps you just keep circling “Stanley Cup: 1.”)

    His numbers have been putrid by just about any metric, especially if you look at the numbers he generated since signing the bloated $37.8 million deal that is set to expire.

    Maybe the Hurricanes are just going through the media motions in appearing open-minded about bring back Ward, but GM Ron Francis indicated that it’s under consideration in discussing Carolina’s off-season with the News & Observer.

    “We’re still looking at that,” Francis said. “We plan to meet in early June to see where we’re at.”

    More details:

    Francis said “term and money” would be the key elements of the contract discussions – that is, the length of contract and salary being proposed. At the same time, Francis said the Canes would evaluate free agents or possibly goalies who might be available in a trade.

    Teams play things pretty close-to-the-vest, but how would Hurricanes fans feel about Ward coming back? What kind of price would be palatable?

    Here’s a list of potential free agent goalies if you want to pass some time pondering such questions.

    Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday

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    We don’t know who’s in or where it will begin, but we do know this — the 2016 Stanley Cup Final will begin next Monday.

    From the league:

    The National Hockey League today announced the schedule of dates for the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, which will begin on Monday, May 30. Additionally, Stanley Cup Final Media Day will be Sunday, May 29, in the host city for Game 1.

    The Stanley Cup Final will match the winner of the Eastern Conference Final, either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Tampa Bay Lightning, against the winner of the Western Conference Final, either the St. Louis Blues or San Jose Sharks.

    The club which earned the greater number of points in the 2015-16 regular season standings will have home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final and will host Games 1, 2 and, if necessary, Games 5 and 7. The other club will host Games 3 and 4 and, if necessary, Game 6. The Blues collected 107 points during the regular season, most among the remaining teams, followed by the Penguins (104), Sharks (98) and Lightning (97).

    The start time for all Stanley Cup Final games will be 8 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Group has exclusive coverage of the Final in the U.S., while CBC and TVA Sports have exclusive coverage throughout Canada.

    2016 STANLEY CUP FINAL SCHEDULE
    (all start times 8 p.m., ET)

    Game 1 Monday, May 30
    Game 2 Wednesday, June 1
    Game 3 Saturday, June 4
    Game 4 Monday, June 6
    Game 5* Thursday, June 9
    Game 6* Sunday, June 12
    Game 7* Wednesday, June 15

    This marks the first time the Stanley Cup Final will begin in May since 2012, when the Kings took on the Devils in New Jersey (on the 30th).

    L.A. went on to capture that series in five games, wrapping things up on June 11.

    After two years in Switzerland, Tom Pyatt signs with Sens

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 22:  Tom Pyatt #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Simon Despres #47 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battle for a loose puck during the game at Consol Energy Center on March 22, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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    Tom Pyatt is back in the NHL.

    Or, at least, back with an NHL organization.

    After spending the last two seasons with Swiss club Geneve Servette, the 29-year-old forward has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Ottawa Senators.

    “We’re very pleased that Tom has committed to our organization for next season,” said GM Pierre Dorion in a release. “He has already accumulated a significant amount of experience at both the American and National Hockey League levels and provides us with solid depth at forward. Having spent his last two seasons playing professionally in Switzerland, members of our coaching staff are familiar with his versatility. We’re looking forward to seeing him in training camp.”

    The Sens, of course, just hired a head coach in Guy Boucher who’s spent the last few years in Switzerland. (Also, an assistant coach.)

    Pyatt’s deal is worth $800,000 in the NHL and $200,000 in the AHL.

    Before leaving for Switzerland in August of 2014, Pyatt played 245 NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring 27 goals and 27 assists.