2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 3: Flyers taking aim at Antti Niemi

The Philadelphia Flyers were able to put significant pressure on the
Blackhawks and Antti Niemi in the third period, getting one goal off of
15 shots. Yet after the game, the Flyers didn’t feel as if they truly
tested Niemi and that while his play was good they never forced him to
make truly miraculous saves.

That’s a sentiment I agreed with as
well. The San Jose Sharks stated during their series against the
Blackhawks that they needed to get the puck up high on Niemi, to test
him and force him to make blocker and glove saves. He’s at his best down
low, using his butterfly and size to cover the bottom part of the net.

Inexplicably,
the Flyers continuously fired pucks at Niemi’s pads in the third
period. Granted, things happen in the game that force certain shots but
you have to wonder if the Flyers will be focusing on going high on Niemi
after scoring just one goal in Game 2.

After two games against
Niemi and the Hawks, coach Peter Laviolette agrees that the Flyers need
to be taking better shots.

“We didn’t do a very good job of
picking our spots last game,” Laviolette said after the Flyers morning
skate. “We need to do a better job of picking our spots.”

One
thing the Blackhawks did a great job of was keeping the Flyers attack to
the perimeter, and not allowing the top line of Mike Richards, Simon
Gagne and Jeff Carter to get interior penetration and get to those
rebound chances around the crease. The Flyers certainly need to take
better shots, but Laviolette says they’re also going to be focusing on
creating more traffic in front of Niemi.

“I’m a big believer in
traffic, I thought we could do a better job of getting to that area.
Always makes life a little bit more difficult for a goaltender. Tonight
we’re going to look at getting to those areas if we can, and fine tune
our shots a little bit.”

While the Flyers certainly are aiming to
create more havoc in front of Niemi, they did a pretty good job of that
in Game 2. Niemi was just too confident, too comfortable in his crease
and was covering his net perfectly, with several shots making their way
through traffic and finding Niemi’s pads.

The Flyers have played
well, with certainly plenty of room for improvement. Yet they’re a
confident bunch, and will be aiming to find the spots that Niemi tends
to leave open. Especially up high.

“There’s room there, I
think there’s other room as well,” Laviolette said when asked about
aiming high. “Things that we’ve talked about that we’ve tried to show on
video. We’ll get there.”

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    NHL On NBCSN: Senators, Canadiens meet in NHL 100 Classic

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    The first outdoor game of the 2017-18 season takes place on Saturday night in at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa when the Ottawa Senators host the Montreal Canadiens.

    Both teams are looking for some kind of a spark to break out of their early season slumps that have them starting to get buried in the Eastern Conference standings. Even with those slow starts there remains plenty of intrigue with this game.

    Let’s start with the fact that both teams — both of which were in the playoffs just last season — are absolutely desperate for points right now.

    [Live Stream: Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators]

    The Senators, who were just one shot away from being in the Stanley Cup Final a season ago, have won just two of their past 14 games and find themselves in 15th place in the East, 10 points out of a Wild Card spot and seven points behind the Boston Bruins for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.

    As if the problems on the ice are not bad enough, there is plenty of off-ice drama surrounding them. And it seems to keep getting worse.

    The long-term future of their only superstar, defenseman Erik Karlsson, remains in doubt and with each passing day it seems as if his time in Canada’s capital city is coming closer and closer to ending. A free agent after next season, Karlsson has made it clear he is not looking to take a discount on his next contract. Then came the report that he was one of the many Senators that was asked to give his no-trade list.

    As if all of that wasn’t ominous enough, team owner Eugene Melnyk spoke publicly on Friday, the day before what should be one of the highlights of the team’s 2017-18 season, and played the relocation card.

    Other than all of that, everything is going wonderfully for the Senators.

    On the other side of the ice we have the Montreal Canadiens.

    The Canadiens enter play on Saturday sitting just two points back of the Bruins for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, but have also played three additional games.

    The Canadiens have been a difficult team to get a grasp on this season because they keep running so hot and cold.

    After starting the season on a 1-6-1 run, they followed that up by going 7-3 over their next 10. Then they lost five in a row. Then they won five in a row. Which was then followed by a three-game losing streak. You never know which Canadiens team you are going to get on a given night or over a given period of time. The only thing consistent about them this season has been their inconsistency.

    Now they enter play on Saturday night against a struggling Senators team that is dealing with plenty of drama off the ice.

    Outdoor games always have a little extra appeal to them, but this one is especially big given how much the two teams need the points.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    Canada beats US 3-1 in women’s hockey Olympic tuneup

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    SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Haley Irwin and Sarah Nurse scored in the second period, sending Canada to a 3-1 victory over the United States on Friday night in the latest Olympic tuneup between the world’s top powers in women’s hockey.

    Marie-Philip Poulin also scored for Canada, and Ann-Renee Desbiens made 25 saves.

    Brianna Decker opened the scoring for the U.S. with a power-play goal early in the second. Alex Rigsby stopped 33 shots in defeat.

    Poulin made it 3-1 with her goal 55 seconds into the third.

    It was the fifth of six meetings between the rivals as they prepare for the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. They play again Sunday night in Edmonton, Alberta.

    Canada has won four of the five recent matchups, after the Americans took the series opener Oct. 22 in Quebec City.

    ”We just have to be better in the red zones – that’s the difference between winning and losing,” United States coach Robb Stauber said. ”We’ll give some focus and energy to some things we think we can do better, and we’re going to go into Edmonton and see what that end result looks like.”

    The last four Olympic gold medals in women’s hockey have gone to Canada, but the U.S. has won seven of the past eight world championships.

    The Buzzer: Eichel hat trick, Schneider robbery, Gaborik’s 1,000th game

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    Players of the Night: 

    Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres: Eichel ended a four-game goal-less drought with some authority on Friday. After scoring in the first period, Eichel watched as his Sabres blew a 2-1 lead to trail 4-2 with 10 minutes to go. Eichel then turned on overdrive, scoring twice in 10 seconds to tie the game and force overtime. Sadly, his efforts were in vain as the Carolina Hurricanes got the winner 2:15 into the extra frame. It’s Eichel’s first career NHL hat trick.

    Brian Boyle, New Jersey Devils: What an inspirational story Boyle has been this year. On Friday, Boyle scored twice, including the game winner, to bring his goal total to eight on the season. His second of the night was also his 100th of his career.

    Highlights of the Night:

    Eichel showed a good bit of patience on his hat trick goal:

    Cory Schneider committed robbery on this save:

    Sam Gagner scored on a pretty backhand deke to give the Vancouver Canucks the win in overtime, ending a four-game losing streak:

    Factoid of the Night: 

    MISC: 

    Scores: 

    Hurricanes 5, Sabres 4 (OT)

    Devils 5, Stars 2

    Rangers 4, Kings 2

    Red Wings 3, Maple Leafs 1

    Canucks 4, Sharks 3 (OT)


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Melnyk threatens to move Senators if ‘disaster strikes’

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    If you’re looking for someone to spoil an upcoming function, you may want to give Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk a call.

    On the eve of the Senators’ outdoor game against the Montreal Canadiens at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, and on the night when Ottawa’s greats from yesteryear took the ice with Parliament Hill as a backdrop, Melnyk did his best to steal the spotlight from the NHL 100 Classic on Saturday.

    Speaking to reporters, Melnyk threatened to pull the plug in Ottawa and relocate the team if disaster struck.

    “If it becomes a disaster, yes,” Melnyk said. “If you start not seeing crowds showing up, yes. But, for now, we are on the cusp of doing OK.”

    The doom and gloom continued, with Melnyk suggesting he isn’t going to waste a “lifetime of working hard” to support the Senators.

    “It’s not going to happen,” he said. “The bigger question is whether I’m prepared to blow all that money I made over many years in a different industry in a different country. How long can you underwrite a team?”

    Melnyk reiterated that he’s not looking to sell the team, a statement he made earlier this week in the Ottawa Sun, and used McDonald’s as an example on Friday. 

    “It won’t. It just won’t happen,” he said. “It’s a franchise. Imagine if you own a McDonald’s franchise, but you can move it. But why would you sell it? It’s something that’s very difficult to buy.

    We’re doing OK here. Not great, but we’re doing OK. It’s just too much fun. What else do you do? I’m a Canadian. I’m a hockey fan, fanatically a hockey fan, and I couldn’t think of anything better to do.”

    Melnyk said the Senators have “cut everything to the bone,” saying the Senators have one of the thinnest management groups in the league.

    “We want to keep and maintain great players,” he said. “You can’t keep spending at the top end and getting the lowest revenues. It doesn’t work.”

    According to CapFriendly, the Senators are at just over $73 million in projected cap space.

    Melnyk called the Senators disaster on the ice this season a “crappy streak” that every team goes through.

    “We have way too much talent with this team not to perform,” he said.

    When asked if his comments on Friday could take away from the luster of the event taking place in Canada’s capital this weekend, Melnyk said no.

    “It keeps the newspapers selling and the radio people listening,” he said.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck