Savard's return provides instant spark for Boston Bruins

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

The Bruins are playing some of their best hockey of the season, a
year
in which they stumbled along under the pressure of high expectations,
and now are getting an injection of talent and skill as Marc Savard is
set to return today against the Philadelphia Flyers.

For a while there, it looked as if the Boston Bruins’ season may
have ended along with Marc Savard’s, who last hit the ice with his team
on March 7. With Savard out indefinitely with a brutal concussion after
being hit by Matt Cooke, the Bruins looked like a team missing their
heart and desire to compete.

When the Bruins had their chance at
an overly-hyped ‘revenge game’ against Cooke and the Penguins, hockey
fans were sorely disappointed at the lackluster effort shown by the team
on home ice. Here was a chance for the Bruins to not only get some
legal payback on Cooke and the Penguins, but to use the emotional
motivation to spring board away from the bottom of the playoff
standings. Instead, the Bruins looked disinterested and empty as they
were dominated by the Penguins is embarrassing fashion.

Since that
game, the Bruins have used the criticism as motivation to improve. They
entered the playoffs winning six of their last ten games, and while it
seemed they may fall out of the playoffs altogether were able to finish
in the sixth seed. They used the momentum built in the final weeks of
the season, along with some stellar goaltending, to stun the Buffalo
Sabres with a six game series win in the opening round.

With
today’s return of Savard, the Bruins are getting an instant upgrade on
the power play and a playmaker that is certain to make the Bruins into
an even more dangerous team they showed they could be against the
Sabres. While the goaltending of Tuukka Rask was certainly a major
factor in the team’s success in the first round, getting a player with
Savard’s skill could take the Bruins to the level they were never able
to achieve in last year’s postseason.

As GM Peter Chiarelli said
this week, getting Savard back now is the equivalent of a trade deadline
acquisition. The Bruins have been playing for two months without
Savard, slowly growing together on the ice without their best playmaking
forward. Now, with Savard’s return, the Bruins become a much more
dangerous team. They get the heart of the team back and they get an
instant upgrade in talent.

Of course, Savard won’t instantly go
back to 20 to 25 minutes a game right away. There’s some concern over
how he’ll respond to a full game with contact, especially such a
physical team like the Flyers, but I’m guessing we’ll be getting a
motivated player just itching to make a difference.

Video: Pavelski gives Sharks the lead as they look to clinch berth in Stanley Cup Final

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Perseverance paid off for the San Jose Sharks.

Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, pushing home a loose puck on Brian Elliott after Joe Thornton was unable to convert on the breakaway seconds before.

For Pavelski, that’s his league-leading 13th goal of these playoffs.

The Sharks can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history with a win tonight.

San Jose increased its lead to two goals, as Joel Ward capitalized early in the second period.

Canucks trade Jared McCann to the Panthers for Erik Gudbranson

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Jared McCann #91 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers have made a trade — and it’s a big one.

As per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the two main components are forward Jared McCann, who just completed his rookie season with the Canucks, and 24-year-old defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who has played five seasons with the Florida Panthers.

Here are the details:

McCann is the second draft selection of the Jim Benning-Trevor Linden era, taken 24th overall in 2014. As a 19-year-old rookie armed with a big-league wrist shot, he scored nine goals and 18 points while averaging 12:31 of ice time per game in 69 games.

The Canucks had the option of sending McCann back to junior last season and not burning a year of his entry-level deal, but they chose to keep him in Vancouver for the entire year.

One particular aspect of his development, particularly this off-season, was a need to get physically stronger, which was something that could be exposed at times in the defensive end against bigger forwards.

Gudbranson, selected third overall in 2010 and signed to a one-year, $3.5 million extension earlier this month, certainly gives the Canucks size on the back end at six-foot-five-inches tall, a physical presence and a right shot on the blue line, but he has managed only 13 points as a single-season career best and that was in 2014-15.

The Canucks also gave up two picks in this year’s draft.

 

Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

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It has been an Eastern Conference Final full of twists and turns in the plot.

Exhibit A: The goaltending situation for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. 

That began right away, in the first period of Game 1 when Ben Bishop was stretchered off the ice with a lower-body injury. Since then, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been The Guy for the Lightning, which will face the Penguins in a Game 7, winner-take-all contest, in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Of the many storylines heading into this contest, one that stands out is it’s expected to be a goaltending duel between the 21-year-old Vasilevskiy and the Matt Murray, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday.

(Remember when Penguins coach Mike Sullivan went with Marc-Andre Fleury to start over Murray in Game 5, only to switch back to Murray for a must-win Game 6? Another plot twist.)

Bolts head coach Jon Cooper had previously left the door open to the possibility that Bishop could return in this series. On Wednesday, however, he told reporters he’ll meet with his staff but does not anticipate Bishop being in for Game 7.

“I think Andrei is the big reason we’re in Game 7,” said Cooper.

“He’s made big save after big save for us. The one thing that I do like that’s happened to him finally in this series is, you know, he finally started a playoff game and won, whereas his other playoff wins were always in relief, and he’s won in Pittsburgh. So you’ve got to like the kid feels pretty comfortable playing there, and we like that.”

WATCH LIVE: Blues at Sharks – Game 6

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues, Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks, and Joe Thornton #19 argue with a referee during the second period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The San Jose Sharks can make franchise history on home ice tonight against the St. Louis Blues. Win, and the Sharks clinch their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Lose, and it’s back to St. Louis for a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference Final.

You can catch tonight’s Game 6 on NBCSN (9 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Tarasenko needs to start ‘playing within the system’: Hitch

On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott

The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko

Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday