Sabres exploit disastrous first period by Michael Leighton, take 3-1 lead

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The story practically writes itself: the Philadelphia Flyers made a questionable, reactionary move with their starting goalie and find themselves in a self-inflicted 3-1 hole. Despite carrying much of the play and creating a nice amount of scoring chances, Michael Leighton has been downright bad in what might end up being a fatal first period.

Buffalo 3, Philadelphia 1; Sabres currently lead series 3-2

Then again, let’s be fair to Leighton. Last year’s playoff hero is playing in his second game and getting his first full-fledged start since the 2010 playoffs. There are many times when people critique the Flyers’ goalie decisions while ignoring their long track record of putting quality teams on the ice, but on this day, there’s simply no denying that their hubris has gotten the best of them.

While it’s never safe to assume you know what direction the Flyers will go in with their goalies, Leighton isn’t likely to play in the second period after allowing three abysmal goals on just eight shots. All three of those tallies should have been stopped as Rob Niedermayer scored on his short side while Thomas Vanek found the twine twice on the power play. Vanek made a great between-the-legs adjustment for his second power-play goal, but Darren Pang points out that Leighton should have had his paddle down.

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The most stomach-turning part for Philadelphia is that they generally out-played Buffalo in the first period, but only one out of their 17 shots beat Sabres star goalie Ryan Miller. Danny Briere scored a nice rebound goal for his fourth tally of the playoffs, proving why he’s the leading playoff scorer of the post-lockout era (according to James Mirtle).

Chris Pronger is “playing” in today’s game, although his ice time (2:29 so far) has been limited to the Flyers’ man advantage situations. The hulking defenseman still made an impact on the game … but it was a negative, one. He received a penalty after getting into it with the Sabres’ own over-sized blueliner Tyler Myers. Both defensemen probably deserved a penalty, but only Pronger got one.

When you add that Pronger penalty to an Andrej Meszaros high-sticking infraction shortly thereafter, a short Philly 5-on-3 quickly turned to a 4-on-3 for Buffalo.

Ultimately, the Flyers showed plenty of energy in the opening period, yet keep self-destructing, whether it be on defense, in net or in the penalty box. If they want to stage another improbable comeback, they’ll need to match their desperation with some intelligence.

Click here to watch Game 6 with us on NHL Extra

Preds hire new assistant coach in wake of Housley departure

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The Nashville Predators have hired Dan Muse as an assistant coach.

Muse, who spent the last two years as head coach of the USHL’s Chicago Steel, will be in charge of the Preds’ forwards as well as the penalty kill, while associate head coach Kevin McCarthy  — in the wake of Phil Housley’s departure — will now have responsibility for the defense and the power play.

Muse led the Steel to a championship in May. He also won an NCAA title in 2013 as an assistant coach for Yale.

“Dan comes to us as a successful young coach that brings great energy and passion to the game,” said Preds head coach Peter Laviolette in a statement. “He has worked his way up through the coaching ranks, first winning an NCAA title at Yale in 2013, and then taking a Chicago team that had missed the playoffs eight straight seasons and turned them into the Clark Cup champions in just two seasons. We are excited to welcome him to the organization and look forward to his contributions to the coaching staff.”

Sens avoid arbitration with Dzingel

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The Ottawa Senators have narrowly avoided arbitration with Ryan Dzingel.

Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Dzingel has signed a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.8 million.

Dzingel’s hearing was scheduled for today. Last season, the 25-year-old forward had 14 goals and 18 assists in 81 games.

Earlier this week, the Sens also avoided arbitration with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, though that case didn’t go down to the wire like Dzingel’s did.

Pageau and Dzingel were the only Sens with arbitration hearings scheduled.

Related: Sens want to avoid arbitration with Dzingel

 

Palat feels ‘pretty good’ about the Lightning’s chances of bouncing back next season

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Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman accomplished quite a bit this offseason.

Not only did he acquire Mikhail Sergachev for Jonathan Drouin, but he also managed to lose Jason Garrison‘s contract before re-signing Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. They also signed Chris Kunitz and Dan Girardi in free agency.

Even though fitting everyone under the cap couldn’t have been easy, Yzerman managed to get it done, and it has at least some of his players excited about the prospect of next season.

“I feel pretty good about the team,” Palat, who signed a five-year, $26.5 million contract extension last week, told the Tampa Bay Times. “I like all the new guys. They’re in the league for a while. Great veteran guys, experienced guys. That’s what you need to have on your team if you want to win a Cup.”

Going into last season, many people pegged Tampa Bay as one of the teams that would compete for the East Division crown. Not only did they not win the East, they didn’t even qualify for the playoffs. A lot of that had to do with injuries, but there’s no denying that the 2016-17 season was disappointing for the Bolts.

Despite not playing hockey in the spring last season, there seems to be a good amount of optimism surrounding the team’s chances of making a run this year (a healthy Steven Stamkos would help in a big way).

Sure, keeping guys on the ice and off medical tables would increase the odds of the team having a bounce back season, but there’s more to it than that. Outside of a handful of players (mainly Nikita Kucherov), the Lightning didn’t get consistent efforts from a lot of their key players that were healthy.

“It was an experience for us last year because we came from two good (playoff) runs and we thought we were going to make the playoffs just like that, and it didn’t happen,” added Palat. “In the NHL we have to play good from the beginning of the season, and we have to be good all season long.”

PHT Morning Skate: 3 coaches that are on the hot seat going into 2017-18

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–The Hockey News continues their “2020 Vision” series with the Boston Bruins. Thanks to a number of good drafts over the last few years, Boston’s future looks pretty good. They have a number of quality defensemen in their system, which should help get them back into the postseason sooner than later. (The Hockey News)

–It was five years ago this week that Shea Weber signed that huge offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Puck Daddy Blog looks at the fallout from that signing five years later. If Nashville doesn’t match the offer, there’s probably no P.K. Subban in Smashville, maybe Peter Laviolette keeps his job in Philadelphia, and maybe the Flyers don’t miss the playoffs as often. (Puck Daddy)

–TSN’s Scott Cullen breaks down NHL goalies in his latest “Statistically Speaking” article. The way he ranks them is by finding out what their expected goals against will be minus the goals they actually give up. No surprise, Carey Price finds himself at the top of the list (minimum 50 games played). Matt Murray, Philipp Grubauer and Andrew Hammond also find themselves in Cullen’s top 10. (TSN.ca)

–Every year, there’s at least a few coaches who get fired during the season. Last season, names like Jack Capuano, Gerard Gallant and Michel Therrien found themselves on the unemployment line. It’ll be interesting to see who gets their walking papers in 2017-18. The Score believes that Winnipeg’s Paul Marice is one of three coaches that will go into next season on the hot seat. (The Score)

–Ryan Poehling was Montreal’s first round pick in the 2017 draft, and he couldn’t have been more excited to land there. The St. Cloud State product was in awe as soon as he stepped foot in Montreal for the first time. The fact that he’s playing in such a passionate hockey city isn’t bad either. “(The fans) all just go crazy and I haven’t even played here, so it’s special. I just got drafted by them and they’re just crazy about me, so I think that’s pretty cool, how I haven’t even proven anything and they still love me.” (NHL.com)

Dominic Moore hosted the sixth annual Smashfest, which is a ping-pong tournament where fans and NHLers come together for all the bragging rights. For the third time in the tournament’s existence, Ducks forward Patrick Eaves came away the winner: