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.

Video: Tempers flare between Oilers and Predators, as Lucic and McLeod drop the gloves

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Things got feisty between the Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators on Friday.

It started in the second period after P.K. Subban took an elbow from Matt Hendricks along the end boards. Hendricks was immediately grabbed by Anthony Bitetto. Nothing really materialized from that, however the main event broke out between Milan Lucic and Nashville newcomer Cody McLeod.

Lucic landed some pretty heavy punches before the two players fell to the ice.

Video: Cam Ward loses it on Hornqvist, Hurricanes suffer ’embarrassing’ loss to Penguins

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Cam Ward had enough.

The Carolina Hurricanes goalie seemed particularly ticked off with Patric Hornqvist on Friday, twice taking out his frustrations in front of the net on the Pittsburgh Penguins forward.

Earlier in the game, Ward delivered a slash to the back of Hornqvist’s leg. In the third period, with the Hurricanes down five goals — that should give you an indication of what kind of night this was for Carolina — Ward snapped, delivering a punch with the blocker to Hornqvist after he slid into the Hurricanes puck stopper a split second after Evgeni Malkin jammed the puck in for a goal.

The final score? A 7-1 disaster of a loss to the Penguins, highlighted by Pittsburgh’s second-period offensive outburst. Ward played the entire game, allowing seven goals on 41 shots.

Carolina’s night also included star forward Jeff Skinner getting benched for the third period, after he took a pair of minor penalties — embellishment and unsportsmanlike conduct — in the second period.

“That’s pretty embarrassing. You don’t want to suffer a loss like that, especially in your home building,” Skinner told reporters.

The Hurricanes entered this game with a chance to jump into a wild card spot in the East.

Last week, the Hurricanes won four in a row, including a victory over Columbus, and continued their steady rise into the playoff hunt in the East. This week? It’s included losses to the Blue Jackets and Penguins.

The Hurricanes won’t have much time to think about this one. They travel to Columbus for a game Saturday evening.

With Claude Julien on the hot seat, Bruins lose late heartbreaker to Blackhawks

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The Boston Bruins have now lost three in a row, a losing streak that coincides with reports circulating that head coach Claude Julien’s job security is in jeopardy.

The bad news just keeps piling up for the Bruins: They’ve been shut out twice this week, as scoring continues to be an issue in Boston. They’re 22nd in the league in that category.

On Friday, the Bruins had their chances and once again held the edge in puck possession against the Chicago Blackhawks, finishing the game with 19 more shot attempts then the visitors, per hockeystats.ca.

But they couldn’t beat Scott Darling, who made 30 saves, and the real dagger came late in the third period when Marian Hossa scored off the rush with just over one minute remaining in regulation. Boston couldn’t even salvage a point out of this contest, losing 1-0.

The Bruins were all over the Blackhawks in the first period. They held a wide edge in shots on goal, but the Blackhawks were able to escape on the strength of some solid goaltending. They just hung around, and were able to break through in the third period.

The Bruins are still in a playoff position in the Atlantic Division. They are the top puck possession team in the league (although they have the second lowest shooting percentage at five-on-five) and Julien has had plenty of success behind that bench, helping guide the organization to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011 and a run to the Final in the lockout shortened campaign.

It would seem unfair to pin this roster’s shortcomings on the coach, especially given the offseason plans initially set out by Bruins management.

Though this loss likely puts Claude Julien Watch on high alert.

Sabres’ McCabe suffers shoulder injury, will not return versus Red Wings

New York Islanders v Buffalo Sabres
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The Buffalo Sabres will be down a defenseman for the remainder of Friday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Jake McCabe has left the game due to a shoulder injury suffered during the first period and will not return, the club stated during the second period.

Signed to a three-year, $4.8 million contract extension last summer, the 23-year-old McCabe has one goal and 10 points in 44 games this season for Buffalo

More recently, McCabe drew the immediate ire of the Winnipeg Jets after he delivered an open-ice hit on rookie Patrik Laine, who suffered a concussion on the play.