NHL Playoffs, Flyers v. Canadiens: Flyers get through mysterious skate issues

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Thankfully the Philadelphia Flyers won this game. If they had not,
then the uproar  would be incredible and there’s no telling what the
ramifications might be.

The Flyers were forced to continuously
deal skate-sharpening issues during the game today against the
Canadiens, as it was reported that some sort of sand-like substance was
wreaking havoc with the skate blades of a number of Flyers players
throughout the game. From Frank Seravalli of Philldelphia Daily News:

“We
had skate issues, that’s for sure,” coach Peter Laviolette
said. “You know, we lost [Mike] Richards
three times, Kimmo [Timonen] two
times, and I don’t know.

“I’m not familiar with the rumors, but we certainly had some skate
issues.”

Those “rumors”, first reported by NBC’s Pierre McGuire,
was that some some sort of substance had been spilled on the rubber mats
that players walk on from the locker room to the benches, which was
causing all sorts of problems with their skates not only being sharp but
having gouges nearly destroying the blades the blades as well.

The
Flyers didn’t exactly blame any sort of tampering or sabotage for the
sand ending up on the rubber mats, although according to Seravalli one
player did admit there was a substance on the mats that caused these
issues.

For those unfamiliar, any sort of sand or sand-like
substance is kryptonite for the sharpness of skates and for such a
highly skilled sport as hockey having your skates as sharp and in as
good condition as possible is tantamount for success on the ice. Yet the
Flyers lost players all throughout the game to have their skates
repaired, and likely had them ruined once more walking back out of the
locker room and to the bench as no one discovered the substance until
later in the game.

Eventually, towels were laid across the mats to
prevent further damage.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an issue like this affecting the on-ice play of a road team this seriously. I It’s unlikely that the ‘substance’ just randomly appeared on the mats and no one caught the problem, especially when the players had to repeatedly go back for skate repairs throughout the game.

I doubt anyone on the Canadiens or the
Canadiens staff did something to cause these issues, although I can
certainly imagine an overzealous and insanely loyal Bell Centre employee
‘spilling’ something on the mats and ‘forgetting’ to properly clean up
the mess.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

Their struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.

Video: Friday night fights between Bolts and Red Wings

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Not much offense — actually, just one goal midway through the second period as of the writing of this post — between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.

But there has definitely been some animosity between the two clubs.

Tempers flared late in the first period, with Adam Erne and Andreas Athanasiou getting involved in a spirited scrap — and Athanasiou unsuccessful in his attempt at the take-down.

The bad blood continued in the second period with Greg McKegg and Anthony Mantha getting involved in a fight, and Mantha — given the instigator — landing a couple of shots with McKegg on the ice.

 

NHL, MLB player unions support U.S. women hockey players’ boycott

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Unions representing NHL and Major League Baseball players are backing U.S. Women’s National Hockey team players’ decision to boycott next week’s world championships because of a wage dispute.

The NHL Players’ Association posted a note on its Twitter account on Friday saying it supports the U.S. players while panning USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements. The NHLPA says the decision to go with replacement players “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

Earlier in the day, the MLB Players Association encouraged all women hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

Read more: USA Hockey says it will not offer living wage, as dispute with women’s national team continues

The Twitter messages were posted a day after USA Hockey announced it would begin gauging interest of replacement players to compete at the tournament, which opens next Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period.