2010 Stanley Cup Finals: In the end, Patrick Kane was the difference

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Kane5.jpgPatrick Kane had just one game-winning goal in the entire postseason
for the Chicago Blackhawks, but that’s all they ever really needed from
him anyway. Jonathan Toews may have won the Conn Smythe trophy as the
Most Valuable Player of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, but in the end it
was Patrick Kane that was the difference maker as he pushed his team
the incredibly resilient Philadelphia Flyers.

Kane, like the rest of this top line of himself, Toews and Dustin
Byfuglien, had struggled mightily against the speedy and physicial
Flyers in the first four games of the series. He had just three points
in those first four games, and was a minus-6 overall. He was practically
invisible at times and rarely was the scoring threat that this team
desperately needed him to be in order to finally hoist the Cup.

After a disastrous Game 4 performance, Kane turned a corner.

He had five points between Game 5 and 6 and along with Byfuglien was
the catalyst for what the Hawks needed to get their skates back under
them. The series against the Flyers had gone off the rails in Philly,
and here they were headed back to the City of — supposed — Brotherly
Love with a chance to clinch the Cup finals once and for all.

Kane had just two secondary assists before the overtime period
started, but his presence had been felt all game long. It was the same
determination you saw in him after the debacle in Game 4 and it showed
once more in the biggest game of his incredibly young career; there
should have been no doubting that Kane would factor into the winning
goal for the Blackhawks.

For Kane, who at age 21 is just now starting an already incredible
career, it was perhaps the highest moment he’ll ever reach during his
time in the NHL. Skating with the puck in the offensive zone, he was
pushed wide by the Flyers before whipping a hard wrist shot on net.
Somehow, the puck found its way through Michael Leighton before lodging
in the far side of the twine. Kane instantly screamed in joy as the
arena went nearly silent.

No goal lights went off.

No referee signaled a good goal. In fact, there was no signal made.

Kane6.jpgJust the sight of a young kid with the world’s greatest mullet
skating as hard as he could to the other end of the ice, gloves, sticks
and other pieces of equipment falling to the ice in his wake. No one
knew what had happened, but Patrick Kane knew right away: he had just
scored the Cup-winning goal in overtime.

Of course, while talking about the goal, Kane was quick to ramble
onto another subject.

“I knew it right away,” Kane said, a smile on his face as emotion
started to wash over him. “It was stuck behind the meshing there. Got a
shot out to my people back in Buffalo. My hometown. I have four
buddies who drove all the way to come out here. My five family members.
Three sisters, three beautiful sisters. My mom and dad. What a
feeling. I can’t believe it.

“It’s unbelievable. We just won the Stanley Cup.”

Kane was emotional after the game, as many players are when the
reality of their accomplishments start to sink in. Kane is just 21 and
has plenty of hockey ahead of him, but after a long and grueling season
with all of the uncertainty and all of the pressure that was heaped upon
the Hawks, it’s a relief to realize you’ve just accomplished the
ultimate goal.

“I can’t believe this just happened,” Kane said as tears started to
show in his eyes. “It’s something you dream of as a kid. To score the
winning goal in the Stanley Cup Finals. It was just — it was
unbelievable.”

There’s no doubting how important and how deserving Toews is for the
Hawks, the quiet and serious captain who held this team together all
season long. Yet it was Kane, the flashy one of the two, who was
ultimately the difference maker in this series. It’s not how you start a
series or a game, it’s how you finish it that matters. When the
Blackhawks were locked in a must-win game, fighting to not have to head
to a dangerous Game 7 and with the Flyers seizing momentum, he did
exactly what all good hockey players know to do.

He threw the puck
at the net and made something good happen.

No hearing scheduled for Wingels after Wilson headshot (Updated)

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Ottawa forward Tommy Wingels doesn’t have a disciplinary hearing scheduled for his late game headshot on Pittsburgh’s Scott Wilson, an NHL spokesman confirmed.

The incident occurred with seconds remaining in the Penguins’ 7-0 Game 5 win on Sunday afternoon. Wingels wasn’t penalized on the play, and Wilson exited the ice immediately without celebrating with teammates as the final horn sounded.

Pens head coach Mike Sullivan was asked about Wilson’s condition in his postgame presser, but didn’t have an update. The 25-year-old did not participate in today’s optional skate.

Update:

Wilson has appeared in 13 of Pittsburgh’s 17 games this postseason, and chipped in nicely. He’s scored two goals — including one in yesterday’s blowout win — and four points, while averaging just under 11 minutes per night.

Wingels has been less of a factor for Ottawa. He’s appeared in just nine of 17 games, going pointless while getting 9:53 TOI.

 

Report: Defenseman Viktor Antipin expected to join Sabres next week

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Earlier this month it was reported that defenseman Viktor Antipin was on the verge of joining the Buffalo Sabres after terminating his contract in the KHL.

Following the IIHF World Hockey Championships on Sunday, where Antipin was a key player for the Russian team that won the Bronze Medal, Antipin told a Russian news outlet (via the Buffalo News) that he will be leaving for Buffalo on May 29th so that he can join the Sabres.

The 24-year-old Antipin spent the past six years playing for Magnitogorsk Metallurg in the KHL.

In 59 games this past season he scored six goals and added 18 assists.

He had a really strong showing at the recent World Championship tournament, playing close to 18 minutes per game and recording four assists to go with a plus-five rating.

The Sabres defense was a major sore spot this season as the team took a pretty significant step backward in its ongoing rebuild, resulting in the firing of general manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma. As a team the Sabres allowed more than 34 shots on goal per game (the worst mark in the league) and 2.82 goals per game (20th in the league).

The only defensemen the Sabres have under contract for the 2017-18 season at the moment are Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Jake McCabe and Justin Falk so Antipin should get a pretty good opportunity to get a significant role right from the start.

Blues owner gives Armstrong vote of confidence

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Given all the upheaval in St. Louis this season, it was fair to ask questions about GM Doug Armstrong’s job security.

So last week the Post-Dispatch did exactly that, posing the query to Blues owner Tom Stillman: Do you think Armstrong’s the right guy for the job?

“Yes, I do,” Stillman replied. “A lot of GMs, I think, are inclined to be focused on what’s going to keep my job next year and the year after. Some would perceive it as taking a risk to be looking farther down the road even though it might not lead to as many wins in the current year.

“That’s an important quality, looking long-term for the organization and not looking at your short-term survival. I think Doug knows that I am in tune with looking at things in that longer-term way.”

Speaking of term, Armstrong is heading into the last of a five-year deal signed back in 2013. At that time, the Blues were coming off an 109-point campaign and Armstrong was the reigning NHL GM of the Year.

In announcing the deal, Stillman was full of praise.

“First, [Armstrong’s] an outstanding general manager, so we want to make sure he’s with us for a longer period,” he said, per NHL.com. “And second, I think you have to give him time to do his work and develop the team he wants to develop.”

If he extends Armstrong, Stillman could probably use the same quote again.

Because the Blues are, again, sort of in a developmental phase.

First, there was the massive hockey operations overhaul. Over the last three months, Armstrong has given six coaches their walking papers: Ken Hitchcock, Jim Corsi, Ray Bennett, Steve Thomas, Rick Wilson and Ty Conklin.

Mike Yeo was inserted as the head coach, while Martin Brodeur temporarily added goalie coach to his assistant GM duties, before dropping the role at the end of the season.

(Brodeur will lead the charge to find a replacement, now that he’s back to being AGM and Conklin was let go.)

The coaching shakeup wasn’t the only significant change Armstrong oversaw.

The club’s younger prospects continued to push for bigger roles at the NHL level. At forward, the likes of Ivan Barbashev and Zach Sanford both worked their way into the mix, while Robby Fabbri was on pace for a career year before a season-ending ACL tear in early February.

The youth movement could continue into next season, too. Tage Thompson, the 6-foot-5 forward taken 26th overall last year, left Connecticut after his sophomore year to turn pro, and gained some valuable experience with AHL Chicago. Vince Dunn, a defenseman taken in the second round in 2015, had a great year with the Wolves and led all d-men in scoring.

So if there’s going to be an ongoing developmental phase in St. Louis, it makes sense that Stillman wants Armstrong to oversee it. He’s done a good job of it throughout his seven years on the job — he’s the NHL’s ninth longest-tenured active GM — and the club has been successful, with five consecutive playoff appearances.

It is worth noting, however, that “club policy” kept Stillman from talking about actually signing Armstrong to an extension.

Report: ‘Hawks could add Ulf Samuelsson to coaching staff

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The Chicago Blackhawks are searching for an assistant coach, and Ulf Samuelsson might just be their guy.

According to the Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune, Samuelsson is the “top candidate” to replace Mike Kitchen, who was fired after the ‘Hawks were swept by the Nashville Predators in the opening round the playoffs.

The obvious connection here, is that Samuelsson and head coach Joel Quenneville were teammates with the Hartford Whalers back in the 1980s.

Samuelsson, 53, was an associate coach with the Arizona Coyotes from 2006 to 2011 and he was an assistant with the New York Rangers from 2013 to 2016. Last season,  he served as the head coach of Carolina’s farm team, the Charlotte Checkers.

He led the Checkers to a 39-29-8 record during the 2016-17 AHL campaign.