Five Thoughts: Caps toughness, Ryan Miller’s sass talk, Coyotes future all in focus

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A night filled with five games provided us with a lot of talking points this morning. A huge collapse in New York, a stirring shutout from Ryan Miller, a pair of double-overtime thrillers and the playoffs first team eliminated all happened last night. What are we busy thinking about today? Here’s five thoughts to chew on.

1. I realize that a lot of you will want to focus in on a handful of things from the Rangers-Capitals game. You’ll want to talk about the crowd giving it to Bruce Boudreau, you’ll want to talk about the Rangers choking on a 3-0 lead in the third period, you’ll want to pick on Marian Gaborik for having too much of a presence in the game for New York. The part that’s flying under the radar is the guts of this Capitals team.

With how the crowd was and the inspired play of the Rangers through most of that game, it’s a game most teams would fold up under the pressure of. The Caps found another gear in the third period though and fought back to tie it up and force overtime where they went on to win. Caps teams of the past don’t win that game, this year’s version is a lot different and much more hard-headed.

2. Teams in the Eastern Conference may want to start officially worrying about the Pittsburgh Penguins. We’ve talked about their toughness a lot but their offense without the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is an issue. After James Neal scored the game-winner in double overtime last night to put the Pens up 3-1 in their series with Tampa Bay, getting that weight off his shoulders could help their offense turn the corner.

Neal’s struggles to score a goal at all over the last month (Neal hadn’t scored since March 8) had him stressing and perhaps squeezing the stick a bit too tight. Sometimes all it takes is one and Neal’s streakiness is something that could give the Pens the lift they’re looking for.

3. Ryan Miller pitched his second shutout of the playoffs and while he hasn’t been consistently awesome all year for the Sabres, his quotes after the game make him a bit of a quirky folk hero of sorts. After some reporters were challenging his play of late Miller responded saying, “I don’t need to listen to all the B.S. that’s out there from people who don’t know how to play goalie. I really don’t give an expletive.”

No, we didn’t edit his quote, he did actually say “expletive” in making sure that his soundbyte would be able to be heard by anyone without any pesky bleeps. Best part is, when Miller is playing like he did in helping the Sabres tie the series up he doesn’t need to do anything other than point at the scoreboard to show he means business. Of course, if he’s going to keep sounding off like that, we’ll give him a soapbox to stand on whenever he wants.

4. You can’t help but think the Predators feel like they really let a golden opportunity slip away by splitting their two home games with the Ducks. The Ducks went into those games without an offensive weapon like Bobby Ryan to help them out and still the Ducks piled up nine goals on Pekka Rinne in two games and now head back to Anaheim tied 2-2 in the series. With Ryan returning from his stomping suspension and Rinne playing not up to par, the confidence should be beaming from Anaheim, especially with how big Corey Perry stepped up in Game 4 with a goal and two assists in their 6-3 Game 4 win. Seeing Teemu Selanne continue to pile up goals is encouraging as well for what’s a pretty young Ducks team. The Predators have more than a few things to get figured out before Game 5 on Friday night.

5. Detroit’s domination of the Coyotes in spite of injuries (they were without Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen in Game 4) is worthy of further analysis for sure, but the shadow casting a pall over the conclusion of the series in the wake of Detroit’s 6-3 win and sweep is obvious. With the Coyotes future in Arizona in serious doubt and the NHL continuing to say that things are progressing even in the light of even further negative reports is concerning.

At the very least, prospective buyer Matthew Hulsizer was in attendance for Game 4 with a Coyotes hat and jersey on to support the team as the suits in Glendale will now work diligently to get things figured out. You can’t help but feel bad for everyone involved with the team from the players on down to the fans not knowing if this was indeed the last time they’d see them. If the team does head to Winnipeg this summer, the fans in Arizona have every right to be angry at everyone involved for screwing this deal up. Let’s hope they don’t have to move forward as bitter, angry fans with no one left to root for anymore.

Fleury celebrates Stanley Cup day as a Penguin, but admits he’s ready to move on

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Marc-Andre Fleury celebrated his day with the Stanley Cup on Saturday.

His time in Pittsburgh has already come to an official end, having been selected by Vegas in the expansion draft. He’s already said ‘thank-you’ to the fans of Pittsburgh, but the events of this weekend, in his mind it seems, close the chapter for good on this stage of his career.

“I think this was my last day as a Penguin, I would say,” Fleury told NHL.com.

“I have members of my family who had their Penguins hats who told me this was the last time those will come out. So I think after today, I can turn the page and get ready for Vegas.”

The former first overall pick captured three Stanley Cup rings with the Penguins. While he wasn’t the No. 1 goalie last year — or in the 2017 final, either — he played a significant role in Pittsburgh’s success through the first half of this year’s playoff before Matt Murray returned from injury.

He earned praise for how he handled the situation toward the end in Pittsburgh. After the final, reports surfaced he had agreed to waive his no-movement clause, which left him exposed in the expansion draft.

At age 32, he still has two more years left on his current contract, with an annual cap hit of $5.75 million. He’ll no doubt garner plenty of attention this upcoming season as the experienced starter on the Golden Knights’ roster.

But Saturday was for Fleury to enjoy one last championship won with the Penguins.

Hall urges Hischier to ‘develop at his own pace’

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The New Jersey Devils won the lottery and selected Nico Hischier first overall. With that comes even greater expectations on the player heading into their first training camp.

We’re less than two months away from the opening of training camps across the league.

But on a team that has worked this summer to bolster its offense, the addition of the 18-year-old Hischier could have an immediate impact in that department in October. Certainly, fans in New Jersey will hope so.

Taylor Hall knows all about the pressures of being taken first overall.

The Oilers selected him at that spot in 2010, but dealt him to New Jersey last summer, removing a very talented forward from their roster in order to gain something back defensively.

Devils coach John Hynes has already tried to lessen the burden on Hischier. Hall, it appears, has taken a similar approach.

“He’s just got to relax and develop at his own pace,” Hall told the Toronto Sun. “That’s not always the easiest thing to do with all the expectations people put on you for going No. 1, but I’ll help him any way I can.”

The Metropolitan Division featured four 100-plus point teams last season. New Jersey wasn’t one of them. Where the Devils need to make the most improvement in order to break back into the postseason conversation is with their offensive attack,finishing 28th in the league in total goals for last season.

Hischier should help — if not exactly next season then beyond 2017-18. The Devils also acquired Marcus Johansson from Washington and the signing of Brian Boyle should help solidify depth up the middle.

“It’s exciting times for us, bringing in the likes of Nico, Brian Boyle and Marcus Johansson,” said Hall. “We’re certainly trending in the right direction.”

Habs may lean more on Montoya to keep Price refreshed

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The Montreal Canadiens committed money (a lot of money) and term to Carey Price with his contract extension at the beginning of this month.

He is the backbone for this team, for its success.

He’s also about to turn 30 years old next month, with 509 career games in the NHL, entering the league in 2007-08. For as great as he has been, the Habs may place added responsibilities on the shoulders of their back-up, a title currently held by Al Montoya.

In an interview with the Habs’ website, the club’s goaltending coach Stephane Waite said that, in his mind, the days of starting goalies playing 65 to 70 games are done. It’s too tall an order in today’s NHL.

Price has, on three occasions, breached the figures in that approximation during his career. He approached the lower end of that with 62 starts in 2016-17. Montoya, meanwhile, had 18 starts and 19 games, posting a 8-6-4 record (20 points for Montreal in the standings) and a .912 save percentage.

He was the victim of one awful game, allowing 10 goals to Columbus on Nov. 4. But seriously, the entire Habs team was awful that night, essentially leaving their No. 2 goalie out to dry in an embarrassing effort from everyone.

Beyond that, Montoya was able to put together some nice starts, including shutouts against Pittsburgh and Edmonton, two teams well-equipped with dangerous offensive talent.

“We’re not afraid to put Al in goal against any team in the league,” said Waite.

“We don’t look at who he’ll be playing, we just look at the schedule that we make at the beginning of the season. Our priority is to give Carey the right days off at the right times.”

The Habs signed Montoya to a two-year extension in January. That’s a vote of confidence in their back-up.

Maintaining that confidence with a good season would certainly help the Habs accomplish the objective of keeping Price rested and refreshed.

Rangers are ‘right on the cusp,’ says Shattenkirk

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Since missing the playoffs in 2010, the New York Rangers have made it to the Eastern Conference Final three times, and to the Stanley Cup Final once.

A championship, however, has eluded them. Instead, they’ve lost to the L.A. Kings in the final and watched their division rivals from Pittsburgh win it twice in a row, even losing to the Penguins in the first round in 2016.

This summer, however, has brought considerable change to the Blueshirts through a blockbuster trade with Arizona, buyouts and a retirement.

Derek Stepan — gone.

Dan Girardi — gone.

Kevin Klein — gone.

Antti Raanta — gone.

Oscar Lindberg — gone.

There has been substantial change on the blue line. The Rangers went after prized free agent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk with a four-year contract worth $26.6 million. They re-signed Brendan Smith, a late-season acquisition. They brought in Anthony DeAngelo in that deal with Arizona.

Read more: Optimism replaces pessimism after changes to Rangers defense

No surprise here, but Shattenkirk had an optimistic outlook when describing the Rangers, a team he believes is “right on the cusp,” according to a conversation with NHL.com.

“I think we have that capability of playing with a team like that,” Shattenkirk recently told NHL.com.

“We have great goaltending (Henrik Lundqvist). Our defense is fast and we can make plays, but I also think we have a little bit of edge as well. Up front, I’m sure we’re one of the fastest teams in the League. You look at how Pittsburgh is built, and that’s the way that they’ve won. We have some great depth on our team, and I think that’s what it really comes down to at that point of the season: How deep are you?”

Their success next season may also depend on which teams rise and fall in the Metropolitan Division.

Columbus took a big step forward with a franchise record-setting season and will look to replicate that beginning in the fall. The Penguins were the Penguins, advancing past Washington and Ottawa in seven-game series despite a plethora of injuries before besting Nashville in the final. One has to wonder how much of a toll the grind of two Stanley Cups will take on that club. The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy but faltered in the playoffs, ushering in change to their roster with all the unrestricted free agents — including Shattenkirk for the playoff run — they had.

Can the Islanders get back into the playoffs? Same question for the Flyers. Will Carolina, with Scott Darling in net, get the necessary upgrade at that position and take the next step toward the playoffs? What will New Jersey, with an upgraded offense in addition to Taylor Hall, be capable of when the season begins?

The number of changes to teams in the Metropolitan may be enough to shift the balance of power in that division this upcoming season. The Rangers have seemed like a team on the cusp at least three times in the last seven years.

Shattenkirk mentioned goaltending, as well, calling it great. That’s an accurate description of what Lundqvist has been for many years in New York. However, at the age of 35, he’ll need to bounce back from what was a down season for him in 2016-17.

“I think everyone’s probably all going to judge [the window] based on Lundqvist, and everyone is talking about, ‘Well, how long does he have left?'” continued Shattenkirk. “We have a lot of young players on this team, though, to counterbalance that.”