Nathan Horton, Adam McQuaid, Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic

Bruins need overtime to kill off Canadiens in Game 7, will face more demons in Round 2

3 Comments

Much like the Vancouver Canucks last night, the Boston Bruins didn’t shake off the Montreal Canadiens in the prettiest way possible. This Game 7 match fits this gripping, up-and-down series like a glove. Even though it took three overtime wins and plenty of nervous moments, the B’s will play in the second round thanks to Nathan Horton’s second overtime game-winner of the series.

Although the Bruins got one longer term monkey off their backs by beating their historical rivals, they will face another ghost of their playoff past in the second round against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Boston 4, Montreal 3 (OT); Bruins win series 4-3

Even though Boston won, both teams seemed to thrive in their preexisting roles in elimination games. The Bruins kept shooting themselves in the foot, making mental errors to cough up 2-0 and 3-2 leads. Montreal remained defiant in desperate moments, as they scored timely goals and Carey Price made astounding saves.

Give the Bruins credit, though. They kept their heads down and wouldn’t let some tough breaks sap their energy, ultimately overwhelming their hated opponents at home.

Boston builds, then squanders lead in first and second periods

The Bruins came out humming in Game 7. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk and 43-year-old wonder Mark Recchi made it 2-0 in a two minute span in the first period before Habs coach Jacques Martin wisely calmed his team down with a timeout.

Much like in Game 6, mental errors plagued the Bruins throughout this game. Yannick Weber scored an absolutely brilliant power-play goal to make it 2-1, which is the way the first period would end.

The Bruins’ abysmal power play (0 for 21 in the series) reared its ugly head in the second period, as Tomas Plekanec added injury to the insult by scoring a shorthanded goal. Yup, that means the Bruins’ PP was actually a -1 in this series.

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

Boston can’t kill off Montreal until OT

To little surprise, the third period was full of drama. One of the carryover stories from this game will be the suspension debate regarding Andrew Ference’s hit on Habs forward Jeff Halpern. Decide for yourself if Ference deserves supplementary discipline for the hit (he didn’t get a penalty in the game, if that matters).

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

The Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley-Michael Ryder line hasn’t been together very long, but they seem to work incredibly well together. Kelly scored another big goal to give the Bruins a 4-3 lead, but it wouldn’t last.

Say what you want about cocky Canadiens rookie P.K. Subban, he’s clearly a special talent. Subban rifled a one-timer through Thomas for a power-play goal, the Habs’ third special teams tally (two on the PP, one on the PK).

Despite some tense moments, the Bruins were spot-on in overtime for the third time in this series. Once again, it was Horton, who scored his second overtime-winner of the first round to win it for Boston.

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

The outlook for both teams

The Bruins won, but they face some serious questions. Becoming the first time to win a seven game series without a PP goal isn’t something to be proud about. They also struggled protecting leads, as they coughed up two in this game. They cannot expect to go deep in the playoffs without improving on special teams and they need to avoid taking bad penalties, as well.

One of the areas they don’t need to worry about is the play of Tim Thomas, as their Vezina Trophy candidate made 34 out of 37 saves in Game 7.

While the Habs must feel great sadness about this defeat, they were tough to finish off once again. Price might not have won a series, but he silenced just about anyone who wondered why the team went with him instead of Jaroslav Halak. Montreal’s top line also grossly outplayed Boston’s, although some will forget that after watching those two Horton OT winners.

So both teams had some pluses and minuses to look at, but Boston overcame their historical headache. Will they also avenge their 2010 collapse against the Flyers? We’ll find out in Round 2.

Loss vs. Pens at Stadium Series could push Flyers to sell at trade deadline

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Chris Pryor, Director of Scouting (R), and Ron Hextall General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers (L) sit at their team table on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Is a cross-state, historic NHL rivalry not enough to drum up interest in Saturday’s 2017 Stadium Series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins? Maybe a trade deadline hook will do it for you.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports, Flyers GM Ron Hextall already rules his team out as buyers. That leaves two options, really: standing pat or going into “sell mode.”

Hextall provides an interesting nugget in that regard: it might just come down to what happens against the Penguins tomorrow, via NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman:

It seems odd to imagine that the difference between generating zero versus two standings points might dictate a team’s direction, but it also shows the power of parity in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Granted, it’s not like Hextall locks himself into one direction based on the result. Still, it sounds like that game could have some power in swaying his decision.

The Flyers have some interesting trade chips if they do decide to make a move. Michal Neuvirth fears being moved, while Steve Mason at least needs a new contract, leaving their goaltending future up to question.

There are some other interesting UFAs, particularly in defensemen Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto.

Some Flyers fans believe that they should indeed be sellers, though it’s tough to imagine many of them rooting for the Penguins to win just to make it happen.

Mike Smith is out with illness that is not the mumps, Coyotes say

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 07:  Goaltender Mike Smith #41 of the Arizona Coyotes during the preseason NHL game against San Jose Sharks at Gila River Arena on October 7, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 3-1  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

The Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan reports that she was told Mike Smith is missing tonight’s game because of an illness that is not the mumps.

You may recognize “not the mumps” as the NHL’s version of letting out a barrage of coughs and then insisting the issue is not contagious.

Anyway, Smith is out tonight as the Arizona Coyotes visit the Stars in Dallas. With that, Louis Domingue gets the start while the team made an emergency recall of Adin Hill to be his backup.

A quick 411 on Hill: the 20-year-old goalie was the 76th pick in 2015 by the Coyotes. He’s put together some solid work after being promoted from the ECHL to the AHL this season, managing a respectable .916 save percentage in 26 games with the Tucson Roadrunners.

It’s been a tough season for Domingue (5-13-1, .895 save percentage, 3.29 GAA), so you almost wonder if the Coyotes are tempted to see how Hill would handle a little relief work.

Rare wave of injuries for Capitals as Oshie, Orpik are also out

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 02: Matt Niskanen #2 of the Washington Capitals celebrates with teammate T.J. Oshie #77 after scoring a third period goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center on March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

The Washington Capitals have been outright dominant this season, but there’s one opponent they haven’t faced very often: injuries.

They’ve been healthier than everyone else to an almost spooky extent in 2016-17, yet it seems like they’re dealing with a rash of ailments for the first time in a while.

The injury list for tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers appears to be: Matt Niskanen, Andre Burakovsky, Brooks Orpik and T.J. Oshie.

We already knew that Burakovsky will miss some time and that Niskanen was injured after colliding knee-to-knee with Radko Gudas. Oshie and Orpik are bigger surprises as far as their lineup goes. It seemed like Oshie took some significant hits against the Flyers in that same game that injured Niskanen, so maybe that’s the issue there?

Here’s what the Capitals lineup will look like, via the team itself:

The team labels Oshie’s injury as upper-body related while Orpik and Niskanen have lower-body issues. On the bright side, those three are all considered day-to-day.

Riley Barber makes his debut with all of these injury absences.

Predators are a wild card in more ways than one

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 21:  Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators is congratulated by teammates after scoring a hat trick against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Bridgestone Arena on February 21, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

The Nashville Predators have really earned the “wild card” moniker lately, even beyond holding the West’s first wild card spot.

Such a label could describe their up-and-down 2016-17 in general, and it might only intensify over the next few weeks.

Trade deadline players?

Nashville boasts Filip Forsberg, a guy with rare back-to-back hat tricks, not to mention other quality scorers such as James Neal, Ryan Johansen and diamond in the rough Viktor Arvidsson. (Their defensemen can produce points in buckets, too.)

But perhaps they can go from sporadically good to regular contender with that extra boost?

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes that the Predators could be in on talks to acquire Matt Duchene or “somebody big” at forward. Duchene, himself, might be tough to get:

That schedule, though

Honestly, the way their schedule looks, the Predators might need a shot in the arm.

Check out what they’re dealing with during the next few weeks:

Saturday: vs. Capitals
Sunday: vs. Oilers
Tuesday, Feb. 28: at Sabres
Thursday, March 2: at Canadiens
Saturday, March 4: vs. Blackhawks
Tuesday, March 7: at Ducks
Thursday, March 9: at Kings
Saturday, March 11: at Sharks
Monday, March 13: vs. Jets
Thursday, March 16: at Capitals
Saturday, March 18: at Hurricanes

That’s a rough mixture of tough opponents and road games, with even games against non-playoff teams being less than layups (the Hurricanes can beat you when they’re on point, for instance).

The Predators are in the first wild card spot. They’re also not far behind for the third seed in the Central, as the Blues hold a tiebreaker advantage over Nashville right now with both teams at 67 standings points.

That schedule could be an issue, however, for a team that’s been vulnerable to hitting highs and lows.

On the other hand, we’ve also seen hints of the dominant squad many penciled in as a possible contender in 2016-17. In a weakened West, the Predators remain a fascinating team to watch. That could be especially true in the near future.