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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

Video: Trouba receives match penalty for hit on Flames’ Hrivik

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Tempers flared during the third period of Monday’s preseason game between the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets.

Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba received a match penalty for a hit at the blue line on Flames forward Marek Hrivik, leading to a melee along the boards.

Garnet Hathaway took exception to the hit, immediately jumping in and dropping the gloves with Trouba. Hathaway was also assessed an instigator penalty.

The hit occurred just after Hrivik dumped the puck into the Jets zone. Trouba stepped up at the line and delivered the hit, sending Hrivik hard to the ice.

Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice commented on the hit after the game:

The league’s Department of Player Safety has been busy over the past few days, handing out preseason suspensions to Capitals forward Tom Wilson and, on Monday, Rangers forward Andrew Desjardins.

Offseason changes to Capitals, Penguins could make the East wide open

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A handful of Pittsburgh Penguins players whose names are on the Stanley Cup, some of them twice or even three times, are gone.

The same goes for core players from the back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals.

The goliaths of the East haven’t fallen apart, but maybe they’ve lost just enough to make the conference winnable for just about anyone. Pittsburgh no longer has forwards Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen, defensemen Trevor Daley or goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Washington couldn’t afford to keep Justin Williams, Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk.

The Penguins and Capitals are still favored to finish 1-2 in the brutal Metropolitan Division, but improvements made by the New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes and a return to health for members of the Tampa Bay Lightning have cracked the Eastern Conference wide open.

“The competition level is as high as ever,” Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said. “There’s a lot of teams that have a chance to win the Cup. Making the playoffs, it’s very tough nowadays. I think we’re not the only team when we always say, `We want to make the playoffs and then we’ll see what happens’ because you just want to make the playoffs and then anything can happen. There’s no real favorites.”

Pittsburgh is still the betting favorite, and if Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Co. make it happen they’d become the first NHL team with three consecutive titles since the early 1980s New York Islanders dynasty. Then again, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is healthy after a knee injury ended his 2016-17 season, the Hurricanes got a top goaltender in Scott Darling and the Toronto Maple Leafs are only expected to get better now that Auston Matthews and the kids have some playoff experience.

“Toronto obviously made a big step forward, Columbus is a team that has tremendous upside, made a big move this summer, and then you look at a team like Carolina who’s going to be knocking on the door in the next few years,” said Shattenkirk, who signed with the revamped Rangers.

In a league with considerable playoff turnover from year to year, there’s no rest for the eight teams that made it last year: the Penguins, Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens, Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Bruins and Maple Leafs. But Fleury, now the starter for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, believes his old team has a chance to three-peat, and Alex Ovechkin said the Capitals will be good.

“Our goal is still to go out there and be the best team in the regular season and be the best team in the postseason,” Washington winger T.J. Oshie said. “It’s not a very far-fetched goal.”

Some things to watch in the Eastern Conference this season:

YOUTH IS SERVED

Matthews is only 20, but now there’s a whole new crop of potential teenage stars, including the New Jersey Devils’ No. 1 pick , Nico Hischier, and the Philadelphia Flyers’ No. 2 pick, Nolan Patrick. The Swiss-born Hischier turned heads with some big-time plays in the preseason and in the process ratcheted up expectations.

PRICE IS RIGHT

The Canadiens lost defenseman Andrei Markov and winger Alexander Radulov and traded their top defensive prospect for forward Jonathan Drouin. Montreal probably should make the playoffs despite all the changes because of goaltender Carey Price, who won the Hart and Vezina Trophies in 2014-15 and missed most of the 2015-16 season with a knee injury.

“He is the best goalie in the NHL,” Drouin said. “He’s proved it for a lot of years now.”

Price has some competition in Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky and Washington’s Braden Holtby, the past two Vezina winners. The play of those three and Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray will likely determine the order of finish in the East.

C’MON, CROSBY

After leading the league with 44 goals in the regular season and the playoffs with 27 assists, there’s no doubting Crosby has another MVP season in him. Teammates and opponents always expect him to sharpen another skill, though he could just keep scoring goals better than anyone else.

“He was always, I think, a passer a little more – always looking for other guys,” Fleury said. “But he doesn’t have a crazy hard shot. It’s just how quick the release is. He’s skating, he’s looking around and the shot comes (from) any angle. His backhand is good too, probably as hard as anybody.”

BRIGHT LIGHTS ON BIG CITY

The Rangers added Shattenkirk, re-signed Brendan Smith and traded Derek Stepan to retool while goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is still in his prime. Across town, the Islanders are hoping to re-sign captain John Tavares before he can become a free agent next summer New York is where it’s at, and there’s no shortage of drama.

SUNRISE REDUX

Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has gone to great lengths to undo some of the moves made in the summer of 2016 when he was shifted out of a position of power. Defenseman Jason Demers and forward Reilly Smith are gone, Bob Boughner is the new coach and big things are expected in South Florida.

“We’ve got to go in one direction and never look back,” winger Jonathan Huberdeau said. “That’s what we want to do, and Dale Tallon knows that. We want to build something with Bob and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”

 

Flames to receive NHL revenue sharing funds, says King

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Last week, the Flames stated they would no longer pursue a new arena in Calgary after two years of discussions with the city.

On Monday, Flames president and CEO Ken King said the organization is now receiving funds as part of the National Hockey League’s revenue sharing.

From CBC:

He said the team used to be among the top 10 revenue-earning teams in the NHL who, under the league’s revenue-sharing agreement, contribute funds to the lower-earning teams.

“We have now crossed the line. We are now receivers. We’ll get a cheque this year. Isn’t that ridiculous, in this beautiful market?” he said.

“And I can say, sadly, that we have crossed one of the remedies off the list, and that is the new facility. I honestly do not know where that part of the story is going to end.”

He also stated that the organization’s decision to publicly state it will no longer pursue a new arena in Calgary was not political posturing.

The Flames currently play out of the Saddledome, which is 34 years old and has drawn criticism from the team, as well as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Last week, the Flames released a report online and in local newspaper advertisements, saying they were prepared to contribute $275 million in funding toward a new arena. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi responded, saying there were some “errors of omission” in what the Flames released.

NHL suspends Desjardins two preseason games for illegal check to the head

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has issued another two-game preseason suspension, this time to Andrew Desjardins of the New York Rangers.

The incident occurred during the first period of Saturday’s game between the Rangers and New Jersey Devils, as Desjardins delivered a hit to the head of Miles Wood.

Desjardins received a match penalty for an illegal check to the head, and a two-game preseason ban on Monday.

“Desjardins, looking to prevent Wood from cutting to the front of the net, steps in front of Wood and delivers a high hit, which makes the head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable,” stated the Department of Player Safety in a video explanation.

“It is important to note that Wood is eligible to be hit on this play, provided it is done in a legal manner. However, rather than taking an angle of approach that results in a legal, full-bodied check, Desjardins takes an angle of approach that picks Wood’s head, making it the main point of contact.”

The Rangers are in action right now versus the Philadelphia Flyers. They have one game remaining on their preseason schedule after tonight, as they take on the Flyers again tomorrow.

Desjardins was attending Rangers camp on a professional tryout.