When it comes down to tonight’s two Game 7 matches, the Chicago Blackhawks share some things in common with the Buffalo Sabres. Along with being a lower seed playing this decisive game on the road, they also somehow go into this contest with far less controversy and confusion surrounding their team.
The Canucks face questions about the psyche of their franchise goalie Roberto Luongo, their killer instinct after dropping three straight games and criticism for their GM’s penalty-related complaints.
It’s pretty strange that the defending Stanley Cup champions go into a Game 7 with a relatively clean slate, but that seems to be the case. Here’s the interesting thing, though: the team actually never faced the do-or-die pressure of a Game 7 in last year’s playoffs. That probably underscores just how dominant they were in their Cup run in 2010, but it shows that Vancouver isn’t the only team under the microscope.
In fact, Chicago hasn’t played in a Game 7 since 1995, when the team beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2. The Blackhawks and Leafs would need to meet in the Stanley Cup finals for such an event to happen again.
Chicago’s all-time record in Game 7 contests: 5-4
Vancouver’s all-time record in Game 7 contests: 5-4 as well, with their most recent game being a 4-1 win against the Dallas Stars in 2007.
For all the well-deserved criticism sent the Canucks’ way, young players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have never played in a Game 7 before in their NHL careers. Kane can only look to his experiences in the minors and maybe that 2010 gold medal game he played against his current teammate for comparable feelings of mutual desperation. He still thinks the heat is on the Canucks, though.
“It was in the OHL,” Kane said of an Ontario Hockey League showdown when he was playing for the London Knights. “We were actually up 3-0 on the Soo Greyhounds, and they came back 3-3 and we ended up winning at home. It was a pretty fun game to be a part of.”
“I still feel all the pressure’s on them,” Kane said. “They’re the ones who were up 3-0, they’re the first seed in the West, they were kind of predicted to win the Cup this year and go really far.”
Kane’s probably right, but this young group’s first Game 7 provides a nice little wrinkle to all the Canucks-centric hysteria. It just proves that Chicago faces pressure as well, even if they probably don’t need to worry about being the laughing stock of the hockey world in defeat.
The Boston Bruins are going to be aggressive in their pursuit of a “transitional” defenseman this offseason.
GM Don Sweeney understands it won’t be easy, given all the other teams that will be looking for the exact same thing, but he plans to pursue a puck-mover “either through free agency or through acquisitions.”
“It’s a matter of finding a trading partner or finding a match in the marketplace,” Sweeney said today on a conference call. “But we’re going to be aggressive.”
The Bruins already have four defenseman under contract for next season: Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller, the latter of whom just signed a four-year, $10 million extension.
In addition to those four, Sweeney said he expects to get restricted free agent Torey Krug signed. Like Krug, Colin Miller and Joe Morrow are also RFAs.
That makes seven defensemen under club control. Given his desire to add at least one more, Sweeney was asked about trading either Seidenberg or McQuaid, to which he responded, “I’ll explore whatever I have to, in every way, shape and form to improve our club and find the balance we need.”
So expect another busy offseason in Boston. The Bruins have made no secret their intention to upgrade the blue line. As we wrote a month ago, expect the likes of Jacob Trouba, Matt Dumba, Sami Vatanen, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Tyson Barrie to be targeted, should any of those players become available via trade.
If it’s unrestricted free agency that Sweeney opts for, the list of potential targets includes Keith Yandle, Brian Campbell, Alex Goligoski, Dan Hamhuis, Jason Demers, and Kris Russell.
Related: Seidenberg doesn’t want to think about waiving no-trade
Add another list to Flames GM Brad Treliving’s coaching search list:
Gulutzan, the former Dallas bench boss that’s been an assistant in Vancouver for the last three seasons, was permitted to speak with Treliving about the club’s vacant head coaching gig, per The Province.
“They asked for permission and have talked to [Gulutzan],” Canucks GM Jim Benning confirmed. “If he doesn’t get the job, we like Glen and he’s going to be back with our group.”
Gulutzan and Treliving do have a connection. Earlier this month, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman pointed out that both played their junior hockey in WHL Brandon, and was “told not to be surprised” if Gulutzan received an interview.
Treliving is searching hard for a replacement for Bob Hartley. Yesterday, the Calgary Sun wrote he kept busy with the coaching search while leading Canada to gold at the recently completed World Hockey Championship.
Earlier reports claimed Treliving spoke to ex-Wild bench boss Mike Yeo about the gig.
From a Vancouver perspective, the Gulutzan interview could have a domino effect. The Province also points out that Calgary didn’t ask permission to speak with Travis Green, the Canucks’ well-respect bench boss in AHL Utica.
Green has said he thinks he’s ready to take an NHL job, and earlier reports claimed he was in the running for Anaheim’s vacant head coaching gig.
Is it all Vladimir Tarasenko‘s fault that the St. Louis Blues are on the brink of elimination?
No, of course it’s not.
It seems we have to clarify this every time a star player comes under fire for not producing. Hockey is a team game, and the Blues — as a team — have not been as good as the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.
Still, it was interesting to hear St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock talk about Tarasenko yesterday, because the criticism was pointed, even if it was delivered in an empathetic manner.
“What happens with goal-scorers when they get frustrated is they look to hit home runs. We need him just to act like a worker,” said Hitchcock.
“What he’s doing is he’s looking to try to catch fast breaks, he’s looking to catch the other team napping. But when you play against guys like [Marc-Edouard Vlasic], you’re not going to catch him napping. He’s just got to feel comfortable playing within the system, playing within the framework.”
Hitchcock added, “I think it’s a natural tendency with younger players who have this heightened sense of urgency to do what they do well, which for him is score goals. He’s gotten too far away from the play. He’s got himself too stretched out. We just need him to come back to the puck a little bit more.”
As we noted yesterday, Tarasenko has been held pointless in five games against the Sharks. In his last three games combined, he’s managed just four shots total. This from a guy who scored 40 of the Blues’ 224 goals during the regular season, then put up 13 points (7G, 6A) in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
We’ll see tonight if the “hard lessons” continue for the 24-year-old, or if he can find a way to help get his team back to St. Louis for Game 7.
It’s been another successful spring for Tyler Johnson.
Johnson, the most diminutive member of Tampa Bay’s vaunted “Triplets” line, is racking up the playoff points yet again. He has 17 through 16 games — tied with Joe Thornton for sixth-most in the postseason — and, depending on how far the Bolts go this year, could best last year’s total, when he had 23 in 24.
Not bad, considering the physical pounding Johnson has taken.
At just 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds, the playoff grind has certainly taken its toll over the last two years. Johnson was rendered all but ineffective in last year’s Cup Final versus Chicago due to a broken right wrist and, this year, dealt with an upper-body injury in the opening round and a puck to the face just prior to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Not that it slowed him down any.
Johnson scored the game-winning OT tally in Game 4, getting his body in front of a Jason Garrison shot to deflect home past Marc-Andre Fleury. That earned high praise from Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, who heaped superlatives on his undersized star.
“He’s a winner — that’s what winners do,” coach Jon Cooper said of Johnson, per the Tampa Bay Times. “They don’t back down. And when there’s a challenge ahead of you, you’ve got to find a way to meet the challenge. There’s a lot of coaches that had a front row seat to see how this kid plays and how he competes.
“And it’s not always the size of the player, it’s the size of the heart, and that’s Tyler Johnson.”