It’s true that a big chunk – maybe a majority – of the cap cleanup the Chicago Blackhawks have undergone this summer involved straight-up salary dumps. The Dustin Byfuglien trade to Atlanta is at least one exception, though, as the Blackhawks received a nice package that included two high 2010 draft picks, Marty Reasoner and an interesting prospect by the name Jeremy Morin.
Morin might not make an impact on the team’s pro roster for some time, but NHL.com states that he stood out in the U.S. junior team’s 6-3 win over Finland in what was essentially an exhibition game today.
Watching Jeremy Morin play for the U.S. against Finland on Wednesday at USA Hockey’s National Junior Evaluation Camp, it’s easy to see why the Chicago Blackhawks wanted him and why the Atlanta Thrashers were so reluctant to let him go.
Morin, a 6-foot-1, 189-pound right wing, scored the game’s first goal and arguably was the U.S. team’s most active offensive player in a 6-3 defeat of Finland at the USA Rink at the Olympic Center here.
Even his former GM Rick Dudley had some very glowing statements to make about Morin. Dudley might even be guilty of a little hyperbole – surprising since he has no incentive in hyping Morin up at this point. He even compared Morin to one of the game’s greatest goal scorers.
Dudley said he likes how Morin, “gets bigger and stronger when there’s an opportunity to score. He’s one of those players … Mike Bossy was like that. Mike wasn’t a big man but when you put a puck in front of the net with a chance to score, not many players could hold him off that puck — and Jeremy’s a lot like that.”
I often chuckle when I read scouting reports or draft updates in which an 18-year-old player is touted as “The Next [insert impossibly talented professional player].” Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for an analogy. Such a practice can give you an idea of the way a person plays; it’s similar to comparing a progressive rock band to Rush. It’s unlikely that they’ll belt out hits like “Tom Sawyer” but at least it give you an idea (even a vague one) regarding what they might sound like.
The Blackhawks truly received a nice bounty from the Thrashers this summer. Even beyond the cap savings, their farm system received a nice boost. Ultimately, though, if Byfuglien maintains his impressive level of productivity we saw in the playoffs, Chicago might need to see something from Morin.
So far, so good it seems.
Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.
After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.
Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:
Now, back to Rust.
With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.
Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?
What an Eastern Conference Final for Bryan Rust.
Rust scored his second goal of the series — and third point in as many games — to open the scoring on Friday night, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead over the Lighting at Consol.
After scoring just 11 points during the regular season, Rust — in just his second season at the NHL level — now has seven points in 16 playoff games, and has emerged as a vital bottom-six contributor in the process.
Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin notched assists on Rust’s goal, which came early in the second period. The Pens out-shot the Bolts 8-5 in the first period, but were unable to get one past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Oh, and speaking of Kunitz, he’s also produced extremely well in this series — he now has six points in his last five games.
As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.
Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.
Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.
That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.
Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.
It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.
To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.
Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.
In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.
And then Stamkos took the warmup.
As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.
“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”
No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.