Even though this is supposed to be the hardest time of the season to win, the Bruins, Blackhawks, and Sharks have combined for 22 straight wins. You read that right — 22. Boston has won 7 straight. Chicago’s streak is also sitting at lucky #7. The Sharks one-upped both of them with an 8-game winning streak of their own. Obvious guy says these teams are hot.
Here’s the question though: which of these three teams will lose first?
The Bruins face off with the Pittsburgh Penguins who lost a heartbreaker in OT against the Devils last night. Likewise, the San Jose Sharks welcome a deflated Stars team that blew a 2-goal lead in the 3rd period and eventually lost in OT to the Ducks last night. Chicago visits Toronto in a game that features two teams that are playing about 100x better than they were at the beginning of the season. All three teams should face challenges on Saturday — but realistically all three are favorites to continue their winning streaks.
Both the Sharks and Blackhawks started out slow, but if the playoffs were to start tomorrow they’d both have home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. Who knows, we might get a replay of last year’s Western Conference finals. On the other hand, the Bruins have played well all season but didn’t always earn victories in the games where they may have deserved a better fate. With recent acquisitions Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly, and Rich Peverely, the Bruins look like they’ve turned a corner and are one of the strongest teams in the NHL.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see all three teams make the conference finals this spring. But I’ll go out on a limb and say one of these teams is going to lose before then. But which will be the first to drop a game?
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.