Maybe it was salary cap circumventing deals such as Marian Hossa’s with the Chicago Blackhawks. Perhaps instead it was the fact the New Jersey Devils keep winning the Atlantic Division only to get kicked out of the first or second round of the playoffs. Or it could just be that GM Lou Lamoriello saw the team’s window closing and made a desperate move.
Either way, signing Ilya Kovalchuk to that wacky $100 million deal really backed the Devils into a salary cap corner, culminating in the team being forced to play less than 18 players on Monday. It was something of a perfect storm as Brian Rolston and Anton Volchenkov dealt with short-term injuries while enforcer Pierre-Luc Letorenau-Leblond received a one game suspension. Chances are that the team won’t be dealing with the same exact circumstances soon, although those injuries might not clear up too soon.
The situation hurt the team on the ice (they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1), but they might have been dealt an even bigger blow in the court of public opinion.
It’s important to note that the league probably won’t fine or reprimand the Devils for dressing only 15 skaters (barring the NHL pulling a 180, which is an undeniable possibility in the Wild West-like league justice system). That hasn’t stopped the winds of controversy from swirling, though. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy provides a nice roundup of the viewpoints on the subject, with Derian Hatcher saying that “(Lamoriello)’s mocking the league” while others go as far as to wonder if it’s an issue that the NHLPA might want to intervene on.
Again, chances are this will just be a source of embarrassment for Lamoriello and the team. Honestly, I feel like the well-respected general manager has had his missteps over the years (letting too many valuable defensemen depart, signing Rolston to that ridiculous contract), so it’s not as if he was infallible until this summer.
All of that being said, his moves will be judged by how well New Jersey fares this season. If Kovalchuk helps the team lift the Stanley Cup for the fourth time, he’ll look like an evil genius. Yet if the Devils fall short of the mark again – or dare I wonder, even maybe miss the playoffs – then he’ll truly have egg on his face.
Either way, this isn’t exactly a shining moment for Lamoriello’s legacy as one the NHL’s shrewdest team builders. Too bad Lamoriello doesn’t care.
There was apparently an issue with a microphone used for the national anthems prior to Game 3 between the Ducks and Oilers in Edmonton.
Canadian country music star Brett Kissel was supposed to perform the anthems, however, as he stepped up to the mic, he soon discovered that there seemed to be a malfunction.
With some quick encouragement from Kissel, fans at Rogers Place stole the show with stirring renditions of both the American and Canadian national anthems.
Here is the Star Spangled Banner:
Here is O Canada:
Good news for the Anaheim Ducks, who trail the Edmonton Oilers 2-0 in their second round series.
Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen returns to the lineup Sunday for Game 3 — his first game since April 13, which was the opener of Anaheim’s first-round series with Calgary, because of an upper-body injury.
However, the Ducks will be without Kevin Bieksa, who is dealing with a lower-body injury.
The Nashville Predators have snapped their one-game funk in these Stanley Cup playoffs, taking back the series lead over the St. Louis Blues.
For long stretches of Sunday’s contest, the Predators kept the puck away from and stifled the Blues, including a stretch of almost nine minutes at the beginning of the second period in which St. Louis failed to register a shot attempt.
The Predators’ 3-1 victory in Game 3 was eventually secured on an unbelievably dominant shift late in the third period.
Joel Edmundson‘s (costly) turnover led to a dizzying attack from Predators, who had sustained puck possession inside the St. Louis zone for about 1:10.
By the end, Edmundson and Colton Parayko had exhausted themselves as the Predators tossed the puck around with increasing ease before Roman Josi halted the madness with a slap shot to the top corner, giving Nashville a two-goal lead.
That continues an impressive trend for the Predators.
They have scored nine goals in this series, with at least one defenseman contributing directly with either a goal or an assist on eight of those goals. Nashville’s group of blueliners — including Ryan Ellis, who has been on quite a productive roll throughout these playoffs — have combined for 11 points through three games in this series.
This series resumes Tuesday in Nashville, with the Predators leading 2-1.
Playing in Nashville over the years it has been easy for Ryan Ellis to get overlooked, always playing in the shadow of bigger name stars on the team’s blue line.
Shea Weber (before he was traded). Roman Josi. P.K. Subban.
But Ellis has been a major part of the Predators’ blue line and he had a career-year in 2016-17, setting new personal bests in goals (16) and points (38) while matching his previous career high in assists (22).
He has continued that strong play in the postseason and is currently the team’s leading scorer after he netted his third goal of the playoffs (and eighth total point) on Sunday afternoon to give the Predators a 1-0 lead over the St. Louis Blues.
You can see it in the video above.
After being held without a point in the Predators’ first playoff game, Ellis has now picked up at least one point in every playoff game since them and is now riding a six-game point streak.
The first half of Sunday’s game has been a defensive clinic by the Predators, by the way, limiting St. Louis to just 10 shots on goal through the first 34 minutes, and none through the first 14 minutes of the second period.
The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 in the second period when Cody McLeod deflected in his first goal of the playoffs to give the Predators some unexpected scoring depth. He had just five goals in 59 games during the regular season between the Predators and Colorado Avalanche.