Mike Milbury

Mike Milbury’s hat trick: Bruins and Flyers tops in East by a landslide

Each week here at ProHockeyTalk, NHL on NBC’s Mike Milbury gives us his take on three hot topics of discussion around the league. We’re happy to have Mike join us and give us his unique and fiery opinions on what’s going on in the NHL.

1. The Bruins just finished their six game road trip, can we just fast forward to a Flyers-Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals now or what?

I think so. I really think so. Pittsburgh seems to be mortally wounded. Washington is dangerous but I don’t like the biorhythms for them right now. They barely beat out the Islanders their last two games, and give the Islanders credit they’re a much tougher team than anyone realizes.

Who else is there that you’re careful of? Ryan Miller of Buffalo could cause some agitation for people if Buffalo makes it. Carolina is sort of in and out and Tampa is a bit of a wild card. I’m not convinced they’ve got the depth on the blue line but they’ve got the offensive fire power and Dwayne Roloson’s been known to get hot at the right time. If I ranked them out I’d put them Philly, Boston, Washington, and Tampa Bay.

If I had to pick one of either Philadelphia or Boston right now I’d probably lean towards Philadelphia with the caveat being their goaltending is unproven in playoff situations. Tim Thomas has been just remarkable and they’ve hit a pattern here of how to handle Thomas. In the past he’s proven to get tired and I think it’s more mentally than physically tiring than anything. He’s so focused and has to prepare so hard and plays with such passion that it just wears down on him.

They’ve been able to use Tuukka Rask on this road trip and get him involved and that helps Thomas immensely. They’re probably the best tandem in the league right now.

I like the Philly defense a little bit better than the Boston defense but not by a long shot and I kind of shade towards the Flyers a bit towards offense. But if Michael Ryder and Nathan Horton who are starting to emerge a bit and playing to the level the Bruins think they can then it’s a pretty even match-up.

2. With Dallas clear of the Brad Richards speculation, do you like how they sit in the West?

I like their chances with Richards back in the lineup and they can certainly be dangerous, but I don’t like their chances against San Jose, Detroit, or Vancouver. Richards is a great talent and they’ve got some great talent elsewhere on that team, but they’re not that same level.

Detroit is loaded with veteran players and their goaltending has been a bit of an issue with Jimmy Howard lately. Chris Osgood is on the horizon too but I love that GM Kenny Holland saw fit to give Howard an extension because it takes some of the edge off and it gives a load of confidence to him.

Dallas when compared to those three teams though comes up a bit short.

3. Pittsburgh’s got James Neal and Alex Kovalev now… Can the Penguins win without Sidney Crosby or are they dead in the water?

Without Crosby and Evgeni Malkin they’re just another team in the playoffs. They’re a good team, not a great team. They’re not a Stanley Cup team without Crosby and Malkin and I can say that with complete confidence. They’ll give some teams some hassles, they’ve got some guys that play really hard. Kris Letang is a tremendous defenseman, Marc-Andre Fleury is an excellent goaltender but they just don’t have the go-to guys.

Who can survive losing their top two offensive players, never mind two of the top five forwards in the National Hockey League. Common sense just dictates that while they’ll make it to the playoffs they’re not going to get past either Boston or Philadelphia in the playoffs.

PHT Morning Skate: Beat writers survey predicts Ducks will win Cup

Corey Perry, Frederik Andersen
AP Photo
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

In a survey of 29 beat writers, the Anaheim Ducks emerged as the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup. If you’ll recall, they have that in common with the EA Sports simulation. (Boston Globe)

Alex Ovechkin would pick an Olympic hit against Jaromir Jagr as the biggest check of his life. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Here are the highlights from Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Colorado:

The Montreal Canadiens seem committed to using Alex Galchenyuk as a center throughout the 2015-16 campaign. (The Canadian Press)

The NHL recently enlisted its players to read off some not so mean tweets. (USA Today)

Bills coach Rex Ryan talked about the Sabres in Thursday’s press conference. (NHL.com)

Frederik Andersen may have the Anaheim Ducks’ starting job for now, but with John Gibson still a big part of their plans, Andersen has to keep proving himself. (Orange County Register)

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.