Patrice Bergeron, Carey Price

Patrice Bergeron, Keith Yandle and Pekka Rinne named three stars for the month of January

The NHL named its three stars for the month of January today, with Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron getting the top nod, Phoenix Coyotes Keith Yandle receiving the second star and Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne earning the third star.

Here are summaries of the months for those three players, combining notes from the league’s press release with our own observations.

First star: Bergeron

I was going to write that the Boston Bruins center is grabbing a contract year by the horns, but Bergeron signed a three-year, $15 million deal in October to avoid that drama. His hot streak and the improvements he’s shown over the last few seasons must be a nice bright side for concussion victims to look at. Perhaps Marc Savard can look to his fellow teammate and centerman as inspiration in his dark times?

Bergeron led all NHL scorers with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) and posted a +13 rating in 14 games, helping the Bruins (28-15-7) hit the All-Star break first in the Northeast Division. Highlighting Bergeron’s month was a streak of four consecutive games with multiple points, beginning with a pair of goals and +2 rating in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens Jan. 8.

Second star: Yandle

The Coyotes defenseman received a much-deserved All-Star nod. One can assume that his hot start in 2011 didn’t hurt matters for the underrated blueliner.

Yandle also tallied 17 points, tallying three goals and 14 assists, and posted a +9 rating in 14 games as the Coyotes (25-17-9) went 8-4-2 in January, climbing to sixth place in the Western Conference. Yandle tallied points in 11 of 14 games, closing the month with a nine-game point streak — the League’s longest active streak at the All-Star break.

Third star: Rinne

If you set out to construct a list of the most underrated goalies in the NHL, Rinne may very well rank first. Sure, he plays behind a great defensive system in Nashville, but he’s still putting up world-class numbers. The best part is that he succeeded in some tough situations in January.

Rinne started 11 of the Predators’ 13 games in January, tying for first in the NHL in wins (eight), ranking first in goals-against average (1.71) and second in save percentage (.947). He allowed just a single goal five times. Rinne kicked off 2011 by winning seven of his first eight games, four of which came on the road; the team played only three home games during January, a franchise low for home games in a month.

Video: Pavelski gives Sharks the lead as they look to clinch berth in Stanley Cup Final

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Perseverance paid off for the San Jose Sharks.

Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, pushing home a loose puck on Brian Elliott after Joe Thornton was unable to convert on the breakaway seconds before.

For Pavelski, that’s his league-leading 13th goal of these playoffs.

The Sharks can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history with a win tonight.

San Jose increased its lead to two goals, as Joel Ward capitalized early in the second period.

Canucks trade Jared McCann to the Panthers for Erik Gudbranson

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Jared McCann #91 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers have made a trade — and it’s a big one.

As per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the two main components are forward Jared McCann, who just completed his rookie season with the Canucks, and 24-year-old defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who has played five seasons with the Florida Panthers.

Here are the details:

McCann is the second draft selection of the Jim Benning-Trevor Linden era, taken 24th overall in 2014. As a 19-year-old rookie armed with a big-league wrist shot, he scored nine goals and 18 points while averaging 12:31 of ice time per game in 69 games.

The Canucks had the option of sending McCann back to junior last season and not burning a year of his entry-level deal, but they chose to keep him in Vancouver for the entire year.

One particular aspect of his development, particularly this off-season, was a need to get physically stronger, which was something that could be exposed at times in the defensive end against bigger forwards.

Gudbranson, selected third overall in 2010 and signed to a one-year, $3.5 million extension earlier this month, certainly gives the Canucks size on the back end at six-foot-five-inches tall, a physical presence and a right shot on the blue line, but he has managed only 13 points as a single-season career best and that was in 2014-15.

The Canucks also gave up two picks in this year’s draft.

 

Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

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It has been an Eastern Conference Final full of twists and turns in the plot.

Exhibit A: The goaltending situation for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. 

That began right away, in the first period of Game 1 when Ben Bishop was stretchered off the ice with a lower-body injury. Since then, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been The Guy for the Lightning, which will face the Penguins in a Game 7, winner-take-all contest, in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Of the many storylines heading into this contest, one that stands out is it’s expected to be a goaltending duel between the 21-year-old Vasilevskiy and the Matt Murray, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday.

(Remember when Penguins coach Mike Sullivan went with Marc-Andre Fleury to start over Murray in Game 5, only to switch back to Murray for a must-win Game 6? Another plot twist.)

Bolts head coach Jon Cooper had previously left the door open to the possibility that Bishop could return in this series. On Wednesday, however, he told reporters he’ll meet with his staff but does not anticipate Bishop being in for Game 7.

“I think Andrei is the big reason we’re in Game 7,” said Cooper.

“He’s made big save after big save for us. The one thing that I do like that’s happened to him finally in this series is, you know, he finally started a playoff game and won, whereas his other playoff wins were always in relief, and he’s won in Pittsburgh. So you’ve got to like the kid feels pretty comfortable playing there, and we like that.”

WATCH LIVE: Blues at Sharks – Game 6

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues, Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks, and Joe Thornton #19 argue with a referee during the second period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The San Jose Sharks can make franchise history on home ice tonight against the St. Louis Blues. Win, and the Sharks clinch their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Lose, and it’s back to St. Louis for a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference Final.

You can catch tonight’s Game 6 on NBCSN (9 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Tarasenko needs to start ‘playing within the system’: Hitch

On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott

The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko

Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday