No decision by Kovalchuk, Kings re-interested in Gagne?

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Thumbnail image for kovalchukjuly1.jpgThe delicate dance of free agency continues with Ilya Kovalchuk. On a day that started with his agent Jay Grossman announcing on Twitter that a decision was coming today for where Kovalchuk would sign, then evolved into the New York Post saying that it was going to be the Devils signing him for seven years and then backing off of that story fast has turned out to be absolutely nothing instead.

Ilya Kovalchuk choices have been narrowed down, details to be finalized but no announcement tonight….

Thank goodness today was a holiday for everyone in the United States or else some serious productivity in the New York tri-state area might’ve been lost waiting to see if the Devils or Islanders were going to be landing the most coveted free agent in the NHLs salary cap era. A funny thing about the Islanders supposed involvement in this whole thing though is that they apparently wanted a short-term deal with Kovalchuk (subscription needed), and not the hotly-rumored ten-year max contract.

While all that has gone on, the other team that at one point had interest in Kovalchuk, the Kings, decided to speak up today to say that they might not be against trying to obtain Simon Gagne from the Flyers. The twist there being that they had news come out that they were out of the hunt for Gagne. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun sums it up succinctly for us via Twitter.

Now we’re told the Kings may still possibly have some interest in Simon Gagne… confusing. Like this day has been.

As the wind blows, and Kovalchuk’s news continues to not actually occur, situations with teams seeking to go with their post-Kovalchuk Plan B change too. What’s the most likely scenario playing out here for all parties involved? Tweaking the media and the blogosphere and the fans to help stir the reactions one way or another and do some negotiating through the media.

A leak here, a whisper there, a supposed contract offer everywhere and you’ve got yourself the perfect storm for figuring out just where and how fans and other teams will respond to things. The Kings say they’re out of the running for good (and LeBrun believes them) and reports of their re-interest in Simon Gagne surface just an hour or so after Kovalchuk’s agent Jay Grossman says a decision hasn’t been made about where his client is headed. Paint me as cynical here if you’d like, but these things don’t appear to be much of a coincidence to me.

Sharks flip the script, tie Penguins heading into third period

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Tomas Hertl #48 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates with teammates after scoring a second period goal against Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (not pictured) in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the San Jose Sharks in the first period of Game 1, no doubt about it.

Even so, the Sharks entered the middle frame down 2-0, and responded rather than shriveling up. They basically switched roles with the Penguins in the second period, ultimately tying things up 2-2.

The first goal was one Matt Murray would probably like back (even more than a goalie would want any goal back, mind you), as Tomas Hertl beat him five-hole for a power-play goal.

Witness the Sharks’ first-ever goal in a Stanley Cup Final:

Fittingly, a grizzled veteran and longtime face of the Sharks’ franchise tied it up, as Patrick Marleau made it 2-2 with a clever wraparound:

Which team will win the third period? Could we see overtime? Find out on NBC.

Report: Blues will bring back Hitchcock with one-year deal

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Yes, the St. Louis Blues fell short of the Stanley Cup Final, but they still broke some playoff hexes in 2015-16. Apparently Blues management saw enough to bring back Ken Hitchcock.

That’s the word from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos, who report that the Blues are expected to announce a one-year deal with the veteran head coach on Tuesday.

Friedman wonders if these one-year pacts (Hitchcock was on one for 2015-16 as well) may chase away other staffers:

When asked about these scenarios, Hitchcock seemed like he was in favor of experiencing a perpetual “contract year.”

“I scare myself because I think if I take long-term deal, I’m gonna get sloppy,” Hitchcock told Hockey Central at Noon and Sportsnet back in mid-May. “I want to stay on one-year deals.

For plenty of fans, it makes perfect sense to bring Hitchcock back after the Blues took steps forward.

Others wonder if Hitchcock’s style (which leans toward dump-and-chase and “gritty” hockey more than some other teams) may leave the Blues in the dust, however.

That’s a debate for a bar or a message board, yet one can see deeper logic in giving Hitchcock one more shot.

While the Blues have decisions to make – including what to do with free agent captain David Backes – the team is also structured to make another run. Brian Elliott, Jake Allen, Kevin Shattenkirk and Colton Parayko all have deals that will expire after 2016-17, and each contract is a bargain.

If St. Louis believes that Hitchcock is the right fit for that personnel group, then it makes sense to give him another go.

Crosby, Rust and Sheary lead Penguins’ early charge

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Bryan Rust #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Evgeni Malkin #71 after scoring a first period goal against the San Jose Sharks in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Generally speaking, the strategic talk heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final focused on the San Jose Sharks’ deeper defense vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins’ blinding speed.

It’s very early, but so far: advantage Penguins.

Pittsburgh came roaring out of the gate in front of a boisterous Consol Energy Center crowd, but it took them a while to break through.

Once the Penguins did, they raced ahead to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals just 1:02 apart.

First, Bryan Rust kept his red-hot streak going with the 1-0 tally.

Moments later, Sidney Crosby made a beautiful pass to Conor Sheary to put the Penguins up two.

There were a few other moments in which the Sharks looked like they were really struggling with the Penguins’ speed, but Martin Jones made some saves that could be big if San Jose can gather its wits.

Beard breakdown: Burns vs. Thornton (Video)

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Sometimes you need to ask important questions, breaking down positional battles and strategies.

Other times you can’t help but ask “Which guy has the better beard?”

In the case of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks boast two players with elite beards to match their elite skills. “Jumbo Joe” drew a lot of attention for his wild facial hair, yet Burns may very well have inspired Thornton to go heavy-whisker in the first place.

The video above breaks down those two beards, in case you’re itching for a comparison.

One thing that sparks little debate? Both players’ wives are real troopers.