Florida Panthers v Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks steal shootout win in Columbus, deal another blow to Dallas and Calgary playoff hopes

There’s a saying in life, “rather be lucky than good.” Whoever first said that probably felt the same way most Blackhawks fans feel tonight. After a game where they were badly outplayed by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Blackhawks got a late goal in the 3rd period to tie the game and were able to finish off the win in a shootout. A loss would have seen their lead shrink to a single point in the standings as the Flames beat the Blues. Instead, the win leaves the defending Stanley Cup champs with a three-point cushion in the Western Conference with only three games for the Flames to catch them. The win also helped increase their lead over the idle Dallas Stars to five points with only six games left on the Stars schedule.

The night certainly didn’t look like it would be problematic as Chicago got off to a great start. The Hawks scored a pair of goals by Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook within the first 6 minutes of the first period and just had the look of a game that could get out of hand in a hurry. Instead of finishing off the struggling Blue Jackets, the Hawks let them hang around and only lead 2-1 after the first period.

The second period was worse. Six different Blackhawks took penalties in the middle frame. SIX. They looked out of sorts while Columbus looked like the desperate team that needed the points for a playoff spot. Derick Brassard ended up scoring on a 5-on-3 power play to finally tie the game up. When the Jackets eventually took the lead in the 3rd period, it looked like it was only a matter of time before the Hawks were in the locker room explaining how things went tragically wrong.

But just when things looked like they were going to end badly, the Hockey Gods threw the Blackhawks a bone. Bryan Bickell took an outlet pass from Duncan Keith, skated up the left wing and beat Mathieu Garon with a shot that can only be classified as a “bad” goal. If you listened closely in Nationwide Arena, you could almost hear the groans coming from Calgary and Dallas. The break was all Chicago needed to send the game to extra time (and earning a point). Once in OT, they found their game—if it wasn’t for Mathieu Garon trying to redeem himself, they would have ended the game before the shootout. Regardless, Corey Crawford stopped every shot he saw in the shootout, Viktor Stalberg snuck a backhander behind the Columbus netminder, and the Blackhawks escaped with the two points they came for.

At this point in the season, nothing matters except for the result. Did the Blackhawks deserve to win the game? Probably not. Did they completely shut it down after exploding for two goals to start the game? Absolutely. But none of that matters. Two points are two points.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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After three full days without NHL action, the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks will get underway tonight. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

San Jose at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 1 will be on NBC. To stream the contest using the Live Extra app, click here.

We wrote a lot about this series over the weekend. If you haven’t taken a look yet, here are the relevant links:

Penguins or Sharks? PHT makes its Stanley Cup Final picks

Penguins, Sharks discuss bumpy road to Stanley Cup Final

Yes, Thornton and Marleau have been dreaming of a run like this

Sharks and DeBoer ready for Pittsburgh, ‘the fastest team in the league’

Fleury: Now’s not the time to think about future in Pittsburgh

Should Lightning trade Bishop and hand the torch to Vasilevskiy?

Pittsburgh Med: Bonino ‘fine,’ Letang MIA and Daley not ruling out a return (Update)

Matt Nieto should be available to play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

Subtle but effective offseason pushed Sharks to next level

Report: Semin will stay in KHL for 2016-17

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 11:  Alexander Semin #13 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on October 11, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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It seems there will be no NHL comeback attempt by Alex Semin. At least not in 2016-17.

Instead, Semin has inked a one-year extension with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, according to Sport-Express writer Igor Eronko.

At 32 years old, Semin still could have a lot of years left in him as a professional hockey player, but at this point it wouldn’t be surprising if he has played in his last NHL game. Early in his career his talent was clear and demonstrated by some great showings offensively, but he was plagued by inconsistency. In recent years though, he wasn’t so much inconsistent as he was underwhelming.

After being limited to six goals and 19 points in 57 games with Carolina in 2014-15, the one-time 40-goal scorer was bought out of his five-year, $35 million contract just two seasons into it. Montreal took a chance on him for 2015-16, but he only appeared in 15 games with the Canadiens before they put him on unconditional waivers on Dec. 9.

He’s fared better in the KHL though, with five goals and 14 points in 20 regular season games followed by another seven markers and 15 points in 23 playoff contests.

PHT Morning Skate: Predicting the 2016 Stanley Cup Final

San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski celebrates after scoring a goal against the Minnesota Wild duyring the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in San Jose, Calif. San Jose won 4-3. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
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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.

Among the 21 NHL.com and NHL Network experts offering their prediction for the Stanley Cup Final, 17 of them are choosing the San Jose Sharks. (NHL.com)

The majority of ESPN’s experts are also picking the Sharks. (ESPN.com)

For CBS Sports, Adam Gretz and Chris Peters are split on the outcome. (CBS Sports)

Tickets for the first Stanley Cup Final in San Jose appear to be going for significantly more than their Pittsburgh Penguins counterparts. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Inspired by John Scott‘s comments, here’s the start of a World Cup All-Snubs’ team. (TSN)

Peter DeBoer said that then New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello fired him from the Devils’ head coaching job late at night on Christmas. The news then broke on Dec. 26. (Tom Gulitti)

Vegas tabs Joe Pavelski as Conn Smythe frontrunner

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Joe Pavelski #8 of the San Jose Sharks awaits a face off against the St. Louis Blues in game four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins are Vegas favorites to win the 2016 Stanley Cup, but the odds lean toward a San Jose Sharks player capturing the Conn Smythe.

Bovada released a variety of odds on Sunday after others surfaced on Friday.

Joe Pavelski is pegged as a +400 favorite as a winner, edging some other top candidates such as Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Matt Murray.

Here’s the full list:

Pavelski +400
Crosby +500
Kessel +500
Murray +500
Logan Couture +500
Martin Jones +600
Brent Burns +700
Joe Thornton +900
Evgeni Malkin +900
Kris Letang +1400

Bovada also released prop bets, including how long the series might last. Check that out here.