Canadiens first round pick might ditch Harvard

1-leblanc.jpgWhile the Stanley Cup finals move along, the Montreal Canadiens are preparing for the future by conducting a development camp for some of their top prospects, one of whom has a lot of drama surrounding him. 2009 first round pick Louis Leblanc had an outstanding year at Harvard University and while the Crimson did not fare so well as a team, the rumors about Leblanc possibly leaving Harvard are circling.

All the signs indicate that Leblanc, the Canadiens’ No. 1 draft choice last June, is leaving Harvard University after one year. Phil Lecavalier, the older brother of Vincent, and Boston-based Montrealer Kent Hughes have been serving as Leblanc’s family advisers, but there are reports that Pat Brisson has assumed that role and he is in negotiations with the Canadiens regarding Leblanc’s future.

For a quick primer, a “family adviser” is similar to an agent only that the “family adviser” isn’t paid for his work and only sees money once the player becomes a professional. The NCAA rules strongly prohibit athletes hiring agents and it means being kicked off your team should you hire one. In the case of Pat Brisson, he’s got at least one big-name client he works for by the name of Sidney Crosby. Perhaps you’ve heard a bit about him.

These kinds of things happen all the time with players leaving NCAA teams to join Canadian major-junior programs, it just happens that in this case, Leblanc is a Habs draft pick and he’s leaving freaking Harvard. It’s not as if Harvard is a major hockey school here. Their fan support is lacking and they haven’t resembled a powerhouse in ages. That said, it’s still Harvard the academic institution and Leblanc is getting what amounts to a free ride to go to one of the best universities in the world. So why would Leblanc potentially give that up? If you guessed “money” your answer could be right.

Leblanc’s options, should he ditch out on Harvard, are simple:

  • He can either join the major-junior team that drafted him. In this case, it’s Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
  • He can make a run at joining the Habs’ AHL team in Hamilton.

As for what Leblanc is going to do, he remained very political in his answers.

“As of now, I’m signed to go to Harvard and that’s what I’m getting ready for and I’m excited,” said Leblanc. “But if I find something better, then I’ll do it. Harvard’s the better fit right now. I get to do my schooling at the best university in the world. My coach (Ted Donato, Harvard Class of 1991) played 13 years in the NHL and I think it’s the best combination.”

“I’ll discuss (any change), firstly with myself, I’ll think about it,” said Leblanc. “And I’ll talk with people who don’t have an agenda to follow, (people who) don’t own a team. I’ll make a decision with people who like me and want the best for me.”

I wonder if Louis is majoring in political science at Harvard, because based on that he’s ready to take graduate level courses.

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    Leafs chase Rask, hold on to win Game 5

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs came into Saturday’s game facing elimination, but they managed to extend force a sixth game thanks to a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins.

    The Maple Leafs managed to build up a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission thanks to goals by Connor Brown and Andreas Johnsson. They also had a 4-1 lead in the second period. That’s when the Bruins pulled Tuukka Rask in favor of backup Anton Khudobin.

    After the goalie swap, Sean Kuraly managed to cut the deficit to 4-2 before the end of the frame.

     

    Toronto did their best to blow their lead, as they took penalty after penalty in the second half of the game. The Leafs took the final four penalties, but the Bruins failed to convert on their opportunities on the man-advantage. They even gave the Bruins a 5-on-3 power play for over 1:30 before Kuraly scored moments later.

    Goalie Frederik Andersen turned aside 42 of 45 shots. This was the third time in five games that he faced at least 40 shots in this series.

    The Leafs will now return home for Game 6 on Monday night. They’ll need to perform more like they did in the first half of Saturday’s game if they want to force Game 7 in Boston.

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    Backstrom provides OT winner as Capitals take 3-2 series lead

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    The Washington Capitals are on the verge of the second round.

    Yes, the Capitals, who began the series with back-to-back losses in Game 1 and 2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, are now on the brink of eliminating Ohio’s team after Nicklas Backstrom‘s deft deflection in overtime gave the Capitals their third straight win and a 3-2 series lead.

    It was the fourth time in the series both clubs played to a tie in regulation. After Columbus won the first two in OT, Washington replied with a win in double-overtime in Game 3 before Backstrom ended Game 5 at the 11:53 mark of the first frame of free hockey.

    Backstrom scored his first goal of the series to open the scoring for the Caps and assisted for the sixth time in the series on the go-ahead goal in the second period before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in third.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    Braden Holtby had to be sharp, especially in the third period as, inexplicably, the Caps were outshot 16-1. At home. Holtby made 40 saves when it was all said and done.

    Two-hundred feet away, Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task, making some silly stops including a big one on Alex Ovechkin earlier in overtime and a bigger one in regulation time off the same man’s stick.

    Game 6 of this series is slated for Monday in Columbus, with a start time still to be determined.

    In his post-game comments, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, twice, that his team will be back in the capital for Game 7.

    The promise has been made.


    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

    Kucherov, Vasilevskiy shine as Lightning eliminate Devils in 5

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    One’s up for the Hart as the NHL’s best player while the other is up for the Vezina as the league’s top goaltender. Both combined their talents to eliminate the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

    Nikita Kucherov was once again on point for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s matinee. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Kucherov scored a clutch goal — his fifth of the series — to put the Lightning from just inside the blue line to put the Bolts up two with seven minutes and change remaining.

    It proved vital, Kucherov’s goal, as the Devils attempted a late comeback with Kyle Palmieri scored with three minutes remaining after Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra attacker 30 seconds earlier.

    Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the final 180 seconds, stopping 26-of-27 to help usher the Lightning into the second round.

    Tampa, the Atlantic Division winners in the regular season, will face the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, who play later on Saturday in Game 5. The Bruins lead the series 3-1.

    Kucherov was as immense for the Lightning as he was oppressive for the Devils, adding five assists to bring his series total to 10 points. His usual scoring touch was supplemented by his play in the physical department, including this bone-crushing hit on New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    For the Devils, it was hard-fought series from a young team still trying to find its way in the playoffs.

    The Devils abandoned goalie Keith Kinkaid after dropping the first two games. Cory Schneider, who hadn’t won a game in 2018 before Game 3, came in and provided the spark in goal, one that seemed to get the Devils going at the other end of the rink as well as they rolled to a 5-3 win.

    But that well ran dry in Game 4 as the Devils produced just one goal in a 3-1 loss. Game 5 was much the same, production-wise, with the Devils only managing one goal.

    Fellow Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall provided two goals and six points in the series after a 93-point regular season. Rookie Nico Hischier managed just a goal after scoring 20 in his rookie campaign.

    For Vasilevskiy, after looking far more human in the second half of the season, finding his mojo again can only be mean bad things for future playoff opponents.

    The young Russian finished with a .941 save percentage in the series.


    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

    Blue Jackets’ Matt Calvert scores unusual breakaway goal

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    We’ve all see some breakaways go horribly, horribly wrong in the past.

    Patrik Stefan reigns supreme here. Devin Setoguchi didn’t fare too well on this one. And then there was this gaffe by Dennis Wideman once upon a time.

    But sometimes one screws up, only to rebound quickly and turn a near-blunder into a nice-ish goal.

    Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert did that today, in what’s already being called the best/worst breakaway attempt of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    As you can see in the video above, Calvert gets a nice clean breakaway. As he attempts to first a wrist shot, he whiffs on the attempt but manages to corral the puck back, doing the whole spin-o-rama thing, and deposit the puck past Braden Holtby for his second goal of the game.

    Sometimes it just all works out.


    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