Chicago wins a drama-filled Game 6 in overtime to force a Game 7 against Vancouver

10 Comments

In a game that started off oozing with drama as Canucks coach Alain Vigneault would start Cory Schneider in goal over regular starter Roberto Luongo, it would only end up making sense that it would somehow still boil down to Luongo. While the Canucks may have wanted to have Luongo avoid dealing with the insane atmosphere in Chicago and go with the guy that’s not mentally rattled, it would be Luongo who gave up the game-winner in overtime as the Blackhawks won it 4-3 to force a Game 7 on Tuesday.

Schneider played well in goal despite a pair of his own miscues that led to goals from Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland, but in the third period with Vancouver holding a 3-2 lead, Michal Frolik would be taken down on a breakaway giving him a penalty shot and a chance to tie it. Frolik would attack and score on Schneider as Schneider kicked his leg out to try and make the stop and in the process injured himself. In came Luongo and the Canucks stepped up their pressure as Luongo only had to face one shot in the third period while the Canucks peppered the Chicago net trying to end the game. They wouldn’t have it though and the game moved to overtime.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

In overtime, the Blackhawks were able to blitz the Vancouver zone and with 4:30 left in the overtime period, rookie Ben Smith would put home a rebound off a sprawling Luongo and into the net to send the United Center crowd into a frenzy as the Hawks stormed back from being down 3-0 in the series to force a Game 7.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

For Chicago, they’re playing flat out better than Vancouver right now and the Canucks look rattled. Badly. Chicago is getting sustained pressure from all of their lines and with Dave Bolland back in the lineup and producing in a big way, they’ve been able to roll over all of the Canucks lines. Even with Jonathan Toews struggling points-wise, the Blackhawks aren’t missing a beat and they’re playing motivated and often spiteful hockey. We’ve said it before that they’re dangerous and now the Canucks look scared.

Vancouver looks terrified to do anything. The physicality isn’t equaling up to what Chicago is doing, the passing is off, the skill is gone as Chicago is forcing Vancouver to be uncomfortable, and most of all Vancouver is playing as if they don’t want to lose. Someone in that Canucks locker room has to hold the other players accountable and whether it’s captain Henrik Sedin or assistants like Ryan Kesler, the fear of whatever higher being they believe in must be put into them. The Canucks have to play desperate and angry. After all, if you kept getting made to look like a fool by the same “bully” year in and year out, some day you snap out of it and lash out and get back at them.

Right now Vancouver is playing the part of the kid on the playground that’s content with getting wedgies every day and having their lunch money stolen. The scared attitude, the lack of support for one another, the lack of sensible fire they have to want to win is startling. If the Canucks don’t want to become the ultimate joke in playoff history, they’ll take each of the last three losses personally and play like they mean it regardless of who is in goal and play the way the top seeded team in the playoffs should play.

Otherwise, Chicago rolls on and seals a date in the second round and becomes one of the most terrifying teams to play in the Western Conference playoffs. With Detroit and Nashville already booked for dates in the second round, that’s the scariest part of all this. After all, no one wants a piece of an angry and motivated team that knows how to get things done. Perhaps that’s why Chicago has absolutely no fear going against Vancouver.

Here are all the highlights from tonight’s Game 6.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

Busy Blackhawks bring back Pokka, reportedly let Rasmussen walk

Getty
1 Comment

A busy off-season for the Chicago Blackhawks continued with some smaller moves that may still surprise some.

The eyebrow-raiser, at least in some quarters, came when the Blackhawks decided not to hand Dennis Rasmussen a qualifying offer, thus allowing the 26-year-old forward to hit free agency. That news comes from The Athletic’s Scott Powers.

Rasmussen played in 68 games last season (along with three playoff contests), receiving almost 12 minutes of ice time per night. Both were examples of him seeing more of a role in his second year with Chicago.

Still, he didn’t put up big numbers at either the AHL or NHL level, so apparently the Blackhawks decided to spring him free. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports that the team might have soured on Rasmussen after he rejected an offer for a contract extension back in March.

Powers also notes that Ville Pokka was signed to a one-year deal, opening the door for him to possibly make Chicago’s roster.

These developments aren’t likely to add to what’s already been a frustrating off-season for Joel Quenneville in particular, but this still lines up with a pattern of changes. In the latest edition of “30 Thoughts,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman shares some details of Coach Q’s irritation:

21. Joel Quenneville was at the draft Saturday after not appearing on Friday. He stormed out of a coach’s meeting — in full view of reporters — as news broke of the Chicago trades. It would have been very tough for him to lose Hjalmarsson, one of the NHL’s underappreciated great players.

Quenneville’s cage was already rattled by the firing of assistant Mike Kitchen, so here’s hoping he at least signed off on these latest moves.

Report: Red Wings grant Coyotes permission to interview Todd Nelson

Getty
1 Comment

There’s some activity as far as the Arizona Coyotes’ coaching situation goes, and soon there may be some answers.

As noted during the weekend, the Coyotes were interested in speaking with Todd Nelson, who most recently coached the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings’ AHL affiliate) to a Calder Cup victory. The Red Wings granted Arizona permission to interview Nelson, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James.

(Red Wings fans are greeting this news with despair.)

It’s not the only noteworthy development, either, as the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan reports that the Coyotes parted ways with associate coach Jim Playfair today. (The Coyotes confirmed the news moments after this post went up.)

This is a time of change for this organization, and some are bristling at the way they’re handling things. Still, there’s also an argument that the team is ultimately making wise choices, and Nelson could end up being a big part of that.

Assuming they convince him to come on board, of course.

Gryba sticks with Edmonton on two-year, $1.8 million deal

Getty
Leave a comment

After spending the last two seasons with the Oilers, Eric Gryba has signed on for two more.

Gryba, the veteran blueliner that was set to go unrestricted on Saturday, has signed a two-year, $1.8 million extension with Edmonton, per TSN. The deal comes after the 29-year-old appeared in 40 games for the Oilers last year, and three during the club’s playoff run.

Gryba is the second UFA blueliner Edmonton has re-upped with, having previously inked Kris Russell to a four-year, $16 million pact. It’s the byproduct of available cap space GM Peter Chiarelli created by shipping out Jordan Eberle to the Islanders in exchange for Ryan Strome.

It’s likely Gryba will continue to play his existing role in Edmonton — a physical, hard-nosed depth defenseman that won’t play every night, but can jump into the lineup in case of injury or when the Oilers face a particular matchup.

This move also gives the Oilers seven defensemen under contract for next season: Gryba, Russell, Andrej Sekera (who could miss extensive time with a torn ACL), Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Matthew Benning and Darnell Nurse.

So, perhaps Chiarelli isn’t done signing blueliners.

 

 

Report: Kings in contact with Joe Thornton

Getty
8 Comments

Yesterday, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported 12 teams were in contact with San Jose’s Joe Thorton who, on Saturday, will become an unrestricted free agent.

Now, it’s been revealed that one of those teams is also one of San Jose’s biggest rivals — the Los Angeles Kings.

Per LA Kings Insider, the Kings have “been in contact” with Thornton, who just wrapped the last of a three-year, $20.25 million deal with a $6.75M average annual cap hit.

More:

On top of Thornton’s abilities are his relationships with key figures in Los Angeles’ front office. He played with Kings General Manager Rob Blake in San Jose, while Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Development Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager when he played in Boston.

On top of these relationships, Thornton also remains very close with Glen Murray, a figure in Los Angeles’ player development, and I’m told the two, who played together with the Bruins for three and a half seasons, regularly communicate.

LeBrun reported that staying with the Sharks remains Thornton’s No. 1 option, but it’s pretty clear interest in him is sky-high — and coming from a number of different places.

Los Angeles has been making moves to clear cap space, recently buying out the remainder of defenseman Matt Greene’s contract. The Kings also lost blueliner Brayden McNabb to Vegas at the expansion draft.

What happens with Marian Gaborik‘s $4.875M cap hit remains to be seen. The veteran winger underwent an offseason procedure for a “chronic” knee issue and, depending on his recovery, could open the year on long-term injured reserve.

Thornton would give L.A. a formidable one-two punch at center along with Anze Kopitar (and a truly formidable 1-2-3 punch with Kopitar and Jeff Carter, for that matter). It’s also worth noting that as he’s gotten longer in the tooth, Thornton has successfully platooned as a winger — most notably during San Jose’s Stanley Cup run in 2016.