Should the Flyers stick with Leighton and Boucher in net?

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for leighton.jpgWhile this group of people was curiously absent for a few weeks, the “Paul Holmgren should have traded for a veteran goalie” brigade conveniently appeared once the Chicago Blackhawks took a 3-2 lead in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals. That’s a pretty ridiculous stance to take when you consider the fact that the seventh-seed/barely even playoff-worthy Philadelphia Flyers made it much deeper in the playoffs than anyone anticipated. That silly reaction is another discussion for another day, though.

Instead, many are justifiably wondering if the Flyers (cue the broken record) should go out and get a different goalie. Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News shares his thoughts on the subject.

The truth is, you do not need Brodeur or Patrick Roy anymore to win a Cup. Antti Niemi, after all, is about to have his name engraved on the thing. If you want to argue that a tandem of Leighton (a free agent) and Boucher (already signed) is good enough to make another run at it, well, put it this way: It would have been crazy talk a decade ago, but it is not now.

Still, if you are the Flyers, don’t you have to be a little better there? Remember Pittsburgh and Washington. The Flyers’ star players are not as good as the Penguins’ and the Capitals’ star players. The way you beat them is with balance and with goaltending.

I’d make Mike Richards , Claude Giroux and Pronger untouchable. After that, I’d be willing to talk about anybody if it would significantly upgrade the goaltending and add to the defensive depth. That is the other issue. Pronger did wear down in the last few games, finally. They need another defenseman whom they are not afraid to play.

Look, every team wants to be strong in net. Yet there seems to be a sea change in the way some people look at goalies. After all, could you confidently say that you know – beyond a shadow of a doubt – who the best netminder in the NHL is right now? I can’t say I know without flinching (maybe Henrik Lundqvist or Ryan Miller?), so to assume that there is some free agent cure-all is a bit silly.

Really, I think the Flyers would be better off going with the Detroit Red Wings model of average (but super cheap) goalies surrounded by an excellent team. If they go for a big-name goalie, they’d need to sacrifice some of the forward depth that helped them advance through three rounds of the playoffs. And let’s not forget the fact that they’d be signing a guy who wasn’t worthy of a contract extension with a team. On some level, there’s a reason someone becomes a free agent – you have to expect some warts.

I’m not saying that Philadelphia should close its eyes to the possibility of signing a Marty Turco or Evgeni Nabokov – or even trading for Tomas Vokoun – but such a decision would be risky and would come at a considerable cost.

What do you think? Should the Flyers sacrifice a useful player – maybe a Jeff Carter or other second level star – in hopes of improving in net? Could they be better off going cheap with Boucher and pending UFA Leighton? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.