Can Ville Leino follow up a great playoff run with a productive season?

Thumbnail image for leinobrow.jpgThe Philadelphia Flyers went from a solid team to a dangerously deep group in large part because injuries thrust lower line players (and even guys who were often healthy scratches) into bigger roles during the playoffs. Danny Briere ended up being the leader in playoff points even though many in the hockey world gave up on him. Claude Giroux had a fantastic run as well.

Perhaps the most surprising development was Ville Leino’s growth from a disappointing Finnish League project with the Detroit Red Wings to a red-hot scoring force with the Flyers. Leino put up 21 points in the playoffs skating on a line with Briere and Scott Hartnell. With his contract expiring after this season, it will be interesting to see if Leino can follow up that great playoff run with a full season of success.

Anthony Sanfilippo looks back at his triumphs from last season and wonders about the 2010-11 campaign.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for leinosurrounded.jpgAs coach Peter Laviolette likes to say, though, in hockey, injury breeds opportunity – it’s all about who wants to take advantage of it.

For 19 games last spring, Leino did just that. Partnered with Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell to complete the most dynamic line in the playoffs, Leino finished with 21 points in the postseason, an NHL record for rookies. Considering he had a hard time even getting on the ice for the Flyers prior to the postseason, that’s a pretty remarkable figure.

Now, Leino is set to be a fixture on a deep Flyers team with plans of going one step further than it did last season. He will start the season with Hartnell and Briere on what amounts to the Flyers’ second line, and he is being counted on to provide a good chunk of offense for the first time since his days playing in the Finnish Elite League.

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Leino has the talent to be a 25-goal scorer. In his final season in Finland (2007-08) he had 28 goals and 49 assists for 77 points for Jokerit. Of course, that was the last time he was allowed to play the game in his style.

“I feel more confident and I have the trust of the coaches and (other) players,” Leino said. “They’re not thinking, ‘What’s he doing?’ I feel confident to play the way I want. You need that confidence and trust if you’re going to go out there and play (well).”

Leino, Giroux and Jeff Carter all have the dangling monetary carrot in front of them this season, so the Flyers could be driven by normal contributors such as Mike Richards and Chris Pronger while benefiting from an especially inspired supporting cast. Many will critique their goaltending, but if Leino & Co. play well enough it might not matter.

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    Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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    Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

    The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

    While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

    Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

    With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

    Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

    Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
    Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
    Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

    Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

    Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?

    Hurricanes’ Lack taken off on stretcher after collision on Red Wings’ OT goal

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    The Carolina Hurricanes fell short of a win on Monday, but their thoughts likely revolve around the health of goalie Eddie Lack instead.

    Lack was taken off the ice on a stretcher after a collision during Andreas Athanasiou‘s game-winning goal in overtime. Officials reviewed that the goal counted, giving the Red Wings a 4-3 overtime victory against Carolina.

    While it’s been a tough overall season for Hurricanes goalie, Lack has been an integral part of Carolina’s push for a postseason spot. PHT will keep an eye out for updates regarding his condition after this scary collision.

    The Red Wings stayed on the ice as Lack was taken off, a nice gesture after an unfortunate accident.

    Drouin triggers second-period rally for Lightning vs. Blackhawks

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    Just when you think it’s time to count the Tampa Bay Lightning out, they rally back.

    It’s been happening overall in 2016-17, and that pattern carried over into Monday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

    The Lightning decided to put Andrei Vasilevskiy back in the net in the second period after he gave up three goals on eight shots in the opening frame … and at first, that looked like a mistake that would do them in. Chicago went up 4-1 and things looked dire.

    But, again, the Bolts followed the script when it comes to flipping the script, with Jonathan Drouin triggering a resounding rally in the second.

    Droun’s first goal came 11:45 into the second period, followed about a minute later by an Anton Stralman tally. Less than four minutes later, Drouin hit the 20-goal mark with the 4-4 marker on the power play.

    First, check out Drouin’s first goal, which began the rally:

    Next, witness the 4-4 goal, also by Drouin:

    And … just like that, the Lightning tied things up. Wow.

    Apparently Drouin created more offense than just his two goals, too:

    Impressive. Remember when he seemed like he was out the door last season? Now that feels like another reminder not to give up on this group, no matter how ugly things look at times.

    Video will be added when available.

    Lightning give Vasilevskiy the (brief) hook after very rare Jurco goal

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    By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

    He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.

    You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.

    Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.

    Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.

    Here’s the Jurco goal:

    Patrick Kane‘s 2-1 goal might have hurt the most, actually, as it quickly dissolved a tying tally by Ondrej Palat:

    Update: The Lightning decided to put Vasilevskiy back in net to begin the second period. Interesting.