Alain Vigneault

Five Thoughts: Chicago’s heart of a champion giving Vancouver deja vu

1. We were kidding around before about how Chicago’s Game 4 win would put some doubt into Vancouver’s mind. After all, Vancouver was heading back home with a chance to lock up the series in Game 5 and you can always shake off a bad loss. But after a brutal 5-0 loss in Game 5, Vancouver should be honestly worried because Chicago is playing like a focused and vengeful team. The kind of vengeance they’re enacting upon the Canucks is the harshest kind because they’re not doing it with their fists, they’re doing it by getting in their heads.

2. What turned this series around for Chicago? I hate to say it but Raffi Torres’ hit on Brent Seabrook seems to be the spark that got Chicago’s top players to snap out of their haze and start playing to their level. Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith weren’t exactly focused in the first three games of this series. Now they’re playing possessed hockey and Keith is as dangerous offensively as he is defensively. Now the series heads back to Chicago for Game 6 where the haunting refrain of Chelsea Dagger awaits the Canucks.

Momentum can be seized or continued with the next goal, but there’s no doubt that Vancouver is beyond frustrated and the Blackhawks have seen and dominated the Canucks when they’ve been in this mindset before.

3. While the Canucks are frustrated and some of their postgame quotes show that’s the case, good on Alain Vigneault for instantly committing to Roberto Luongo being the starter in Game 6. Avoiding the question of who would start the next game would’ve created a media circus debating who should start. Luongo’s been bad the last two games, but he’s their guy and they have to see it through. If he continues to fail and the Canucks should find a way to lose this series, Vigneault and GM Mike Gillis will have a lot to talk about in the offseason.

4. Tough to imagine that the Boston-Montreal series would see the road team winning all four games so far. What’s incredible about Boston’s Game 4 win is that it was a true redemption game all around for the Bruins. Down 3-1 early, they bounced back to tie the game and send it to overtime where they’d win it.

The guys making it happen were guys getting a lot of heat in Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder. Ryder in particular made coach Claude Julien’s seeming stubbornness in leaving him in the lineup pay off as he scored the Bruins’ first and last goals of the night while also adding an assist. Performances like that make fans forget that Tyler Seguin is parked in the press box.

5. The Kings teased their fans one more time in Game 4. After getting down 3-0 to San Jose, they scored twice in the second period and started to get control in the game just before the period ended. Turns out that intermission is all the Sharks needed to calm down and get focused again as they went on to roll in the third. With how that played out it’s just a sample of how this series has been for L.A. They would get close, even drag the Sharks into overtime, but they just weren’t good enough to pull it off.

That Game 3 collapse was a tremendous blow to this team, but unless they figure things out in a big way they’ll have to start thinking about the future. The Kings will be good and with Kopitar back and the Kings being in the mix in free agency, things are looking up in Hollywood even in the face of potential elimination. One area to figure out aside from forward depth might be defense. Guys not named Drew Doughty and Willie Mitchell have looked poor. Doughty is a restricted free agent after this year as is Alec Martinez, everyone else is locked up though. Time for Dean Lombardi to think about shopping around.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

Leave a comment

For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
AP Photo
Leave a comment

Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

3 Comments

Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

1 Comment

The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.