Flyers present different challenge for Boston Bruins

Carcillo4.jpgBoston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
12:30 p.m. EDT, May 1, 2010
Live on NBC

The Philadelphia Flyers needed a shootout in the final game of the
season just to make the playoffs, yet needed just five games to
eliminate the 2nd seeded New Jersey Devils. With some opportunistic and
timely offense, along with some surprising goaltending from Brian
Boucher, the Flyers enter their second round matchup with the Boston
Bruins as a team confident and rested.

They also present a bit of
a different challenge for the Bruins, who had a surprising series win
of their own against the Sabres. The Flyers are a much more physical
team than the Bruins were able to be in the first round, who will be
able to keep up with the brutality the Bruins can show at times —
especially on defense.

While the Flyers will never be mistaken
for a top-notch offensive team — and the loss of Jeff Carter and Simon
Gagne will certainly hurt — they’ve been able to use strong
forechecking and a crash the net mentality to be incredibly successful
against one the best defensive teams in the NHL.

The Bruins also
didn’t have to deal with a player of the likes of one Dan Carcillo. He’s
not going to single-handedly beat any team, but his physicality and
energy spark the rest of his team and he’s been able to score some
timely goals of late for the Flyers. Compared to the Flyers skating
behind Carcillo, the Sabres were a rumbling and stumbling team that
resembled hockey players sleepwalking on ice skates.

The question
is, especially without Carter and Gagne, is whether the Flyers have the
firepower left to get past the goaltending of Tuukka Rask. The Flyers
can certainly bring the wood and put forth a tremendous forecheck, but
do they have the talent level needed to negate the defense and
goaltending that has worked so well for the Bruins of late?

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    Blackhawks’ Anisimov suffered high-ankle sprain in mid-March

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    Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov was not himself in the playoffs, and by the fourth game against the Predators his ice time was limited to just 14:18.

    It turns out he had a pretty good excuse. Anisimov suffered a high-ankle sprain on March 14 against the Montreal Canadiens, and that’s a tough injury to overcome in less than a month.

    Anisimov missed the rest of the regular season with the injury. He returned for the playoffs but failed to register a single point in four losses to Nashville.

    “Being away for that time period and coming right back into the playoffs, obviously you’re not as sharp as you want to be,” Anisimov’s agent told the Daily Herald’s John Dietz.

    PHT’s second-round playoff predictions, featuring the red-hot Random Thing Picker

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    It was a tough first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for many of the so-called experts of the world.

    Upsets included the Predators over the Blackhawks and the Blues over the Wild. The Rangers over the Canadiens was a quasi-upset, too.

    Here at PHT, it was a mixed bag. Mike Halford and Cam Tucker each went an impressive 6-2. And so too did the Random Thing Picker, which as its name suggests, picks random things. (And picks them rather well, apparently.)

    Of note, the Random Thing Picker and James O’Brien were the only ones to pick the Preds over the ‘Hawks. So congratulations to both robotic lifeforms on that bit of soothsaying.

    Rounding out the rest of the first-round results, Adam Gretz and Joey Alfieri went 4-4, while at 3-5, O’Brien and yours truly couldn’t even crack .500. (Stupid Jake Allen.)

    On to the second round!

    Washington versus Pittsburgh (Stream Capitals-Penguins)

    Brough: Capitals in 7
    Halford: Penguins in 6
    O’Brien: Capitals in 7
    Gretz: Capitals in 7
    Tucker: Capitals in 6
    Alfieri: Capitals in 7
    Random Thing Picker: Capitals

    New York versus Ottawa (Stream Rangers-Senators)

    Brough: Senators in 6
    Halford: Senators in 7
    O’Brien: Rangers in 7
    Gretz: Rangers in 6
    Tucker: Rangers in 6
    Alfieri: Senators in 6
    Random Thing Picker: Senators

    St. Louis versus Nashville (Stream Blues-Predators)

    Brough: Predators in 6
    Halford: Blues in 7
    O’Brien: Predators in 6
    Gretz: Predators in 6
    Tucker: Predators in 7
    Alfieri: Predators in 6
    Random Thing Picker: Blues

    Anaheim versus Edmonton (Stream Ducks-Oilers)

    Brough: Ducks in 7
    Halford: Ducks in 6
    O’Brien: Ducks in 6
    Gretz: Oilers in 7
    Tucker: Oilers in 6
    Alfieri: Ducks in 6
    Random Thing Picker: Ducks

    Feel free to add your picks below…

    Sharks say getting Jones, Vlasic signed before camp ‘a priority’

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    Doug Wilson has a busy summer ahead.

    Decisions need to be made on veteran leaders Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, both pending UFAs. Those figure to be crucial negotiations but, to hear the Sharks GM explain it, there are equally vital deals to be reached with goalie Martin Jones, and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

    “Both of them are extremely important to get under contract,” Wilson said yesterday, per NBC Sports California. “We can start those discussions in the next little while.”

    Both Jones and Vlasic have one year remaining on their current deals, and are eligible to sign extensions on July 1. Wilson said it’s a “priority” to get them done before September’s training camp.

    Jones, 27, is heading into the last of a three-year, $9 million deal with a $3M average annual cap hit. It’s safe to assume he’s in for a lengthy extension with a significant raise, given how good he’s been since joining the Sharks. He backstopped them to the Cup Final last season and has been one of the league’s busiest workhorses, starting 65 games in each of the last two years.

    Vlasic, 30, has spent his entire 10-year career in San Jose. He’s developed a reputation as one of the league’s better defensive defensemen, strengthened by his role on Canada’s gold medal-winning side at the 2014 Olympics, and 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

    Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

    “Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

    At this point, it’s fair to speculate when all these deals will get done. Wilson has a full plate with the four aforementioned negotiations, and also has to hammer out contracts for a trio of RFA forwards — Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Chris Tierney.

    Are the Leafs getting into ‘go for it’ territory?

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    Two years ago, Mike Babcock came to Toronto and predicted there would be “pain.”

    He was right for one year. The Maple Leafs finished dead last in 2015-16, then got Auston Matthews as a reward.

    But the pain didn’t last long, in large part thanks to Matthews. The Leafs made the playoffs in Babcock’s second season as head coach, and they even gave the Washington Capitals a good scare in the first round.

    Now the question has to be asked — should the Leafs start going for it?

    Your first instinct may be to laugh. But it is not such a ridiculous question when you consider Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Anze Kopitar, and Drew Doughty were all in their early 20s when they won the Stanley Cup for the first time.

    Mathews turns 20 in September, and he’s already one of the NHL’s best centers. Wingers William Nylander, 20, and Mitch Marner, 19, aren’t too bad either, and neither is 26-year-old center Nazem Kadri.

    All four of those forwards are under club control for years to come. Also locked up long term is starting goalie Frederik Andersen.

    If there’s a weakness, it’s the back end. Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, and Nikita Zaitsev can all move the puck well, but defensively they’re still suspect. What the Leafs could really use is a top-four defenseman who can match the Leafs’ pace while also killing penalties and shutting down the opposition’s top players. And if he can play the right side, even better.

    Of course, you know who else could use a defenseman like that? The other 30 teams. Top-four defensemen are not cheap to get on the trade market. Just ask the Edmonton Oilers.

    Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello met with the media Tuesday to reflect on the season, and also give his thoughts on the future. He said the Leafs have to be careful not to get complacent, that it only gets harder now. He was asked about the market for defensemen. He said it’s hard to gauge because of the expansion draft.

    But Lamoriello also said, “There’s a five-year plan that changes every day.”

    Which would suggest the Leafs are willing to accelerate their schedule — that they may, in fact, see an opportunity to compete for the Cup a lot sooner than they originally thought possible.

    Consider:

    The Penguins went from out of the playoffs in ’06, to losing in the first round in ’07, to the Stanley Cup Final in ’08, then won it all in ’09.

    The Blackhawks went from out of the playoffs in ’08, to the conference finals in ’09, to a championship in ’10.

    The Kings went from out of the playoffs in ’09 to winning the Cup in ’12.

    So… if you were the Leafs, wouldn’t you see an opportunity, too?