Tim Thomas, Tomas Kaberle and Kris Versteeg rank among players ‘new’ to Boston-Flyers series

As we approach this afternoon’s Game 1 between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers, many will cite baggage from the 2010 series. Will the Bruins be able to shake off the constant stream of questions about that historic collapse? Could the Flyers’ rising swagger turn into self-destructive cockiness?

It’s easy to think that the two teams are the same since only about a year has passed since they played that ’10 semifinals series. Yet injuries, lineup changes and new acquisitions show that the sides will be a little different, with the most profound alterations occurring in Boston’s lineup. Here are a few players who are “new” to this series.

Tim Thomas (benched in 2010)

Obviously, Thomas was on the Bruins’ roster last year, but the team went with Tuukka Rask after the rookie carried the team into the playoffs. Rask was pretty fantastic in 2009-10 but did seem to run out of steam a bit in the postseason. Thomas is the closest thing the NHL has to Dominik Hasek 2.0, so it’s reasonable to say that he’ll be a difference-maker.

Tomas Kaberle (2011 trade deadline acquisition)

The Bruins managed to get to the second round despite their awful power play and Kaberle’s struggles, but a deep Flyers attack will force them to lean on their shallow defense. If he falters for another round, Philly might send Boston on vacation again.

Nathan Horton (Pre-season trade acquisition)

Horton only had three points in that seven-game series against the Montreal Canadiens, but two of those came from overtime game-winning goals. If hockey players were politicians, those two goals would be the polished sound bytes that obscure a lacking larger body of work. Horton’s big-bodied game might come in handy against the physical Flyers, though, as he scored 26 goals for the Bruins this season.

Kris Versteeg (Acquired around the trade deadline)

It seems like the former Chicago Blackhawks/Toronto Maple Leafs forward gets lost in the shuffle of the Flyers’ ridiculously deep offensive attack. He only had 11 points in his 27 regular season games with Philadelphia, but he quietly put together five assists and a +6 rating in the first round. The fact that he’s averaging a bit under 15 minutes of ice time per game is a testament to the Flyers’ depth, but he could be helpful in a tougher series against Boston.

David Krejci (Injured during last year’s series)

A Mike Richards hit in Game 3 of the teams’ 2010 series knocked Krejci out of the playoffs and Boston clearly suffered without their underrated center, as they won that game but dropped the next four. He hopes to finish what he started last year, although he’ll need to finish the scoring chances he starts in this round after scoring just one point (a goal) in seven games against Montreal.

Chris Kelly/Rich Peverley (Acquired around the trade deadline)

While Kaberle was the big-ticket acquisition, Kelly and Peverley were unsung heroes for Boston in the first round. Kelly scored six points (three goals and three assists) while Peverley had five (one goal and four assists) in that seven-game series. Philadelphia shouldn’t underestimate their Misfit Line, which also features rejuvenated winger Michael Ryder.

Andrej Meszaros/Sean O’Donnell (Pre-season additions)

These two new additions to the Flyers’ blueline are very different players. Meszaros is an enticing physical talent prone to defensive lapses while O’Donnell is limited from a skill perspective but very trustworthy on defense.

Tyler Seguin (Boston)/Nik Zherdev (Philadelphia) – (Healthy scratch wild cards)

Seguin was supposed to be a big difference maker as the second overall pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but he’s not quite there yet.  Zherdev is one of those skilled but flighty players who can hurt opponents and his own team in equal measures. Seguin hasn’t made a playoff appearance while Zherdev has two points in five games for Philly.

***

With the exception of Krejci, this list shows plenty of players without baggage from last year. Will these new ingredients give this series a new flavor? Find out today on NBC at 3 p.m. ET.

Brock Boeser will make NHL debut for Canucks today after signing entry level deal

Getty
Leave a comment

After a deal appeared imminent on Friday night the Vancouver Canucks made it official on Saturday morning and announced the signing of 2015 first-round draft pick Brock Boeser to an entry level contract.

Not only is he under contract with the Canucks, but he will also make his NHL debut on Saturday afternoon against his hometown team when the Canucks visit the Minnesota Wild.

The Canucks selected Boeser with the No. 23 overall pick in 2015.

He played his collegiate hockey at North Dakota where he put up some massive numbers, recording 94 points in 74 games over two seasons. That includes 16 goals and 18 assists in 32 games this season.

His addition to the Canucks lineup over the remaining nine games of the 2016-17 season will burn one of those years of his entry level contract, but it will give Canucks fans a glimpse of their future and maybe a reason for optimism in what has become a lost season. The Canucks enter the game having lost seven of their past eight.

 

Nikita Kucherov is trying to carry the Lightning to the playoffs

Getty
1 Comment

Every time you think the Tampa Bay Lightning’s playoff chances might be finished this season, they always find a way to keep them alive and stay in the race.

Thanks to their 2-1 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night, the Lightning were able to keep pace with the New York Islanders and move to within a single point of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference as we prepare to enter the final weeks of the regular season. It is still pretty amazing to think about them being this close to a playoff spot when you consider the injuries the team has dealt with this season. Steven Stamkos, their best player, has not played since November. Their center depth has been decimated in recent weeks with Tyler Johnson, Cedric Paquette and Vladislav Namestnikov all missing significant time in the month of March. They traded Ben Bishop, Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula at the trade deadline for nothing that will help this current team.

And yet, here they are, still right in the thick of the playoff race.

If they are able to pull this off and get one of the eight spots in the Eastern Conference is going to be because Nikita Kucherov has pretty much put the team on his back over the past month and single handedly carried it to one.

Kucherov scored another massive goal on Friday night when he scored the overtime winner in Detroit, and is currently in the middle of a four-game stretch where he has scored a goal in every game (for a total of seven) and recorded multiple points in each one (for a total of nine). If you go back over the past month, a stretch where the Lightning have managed to go 10-5-1 over a 16-game stretch to remain in the race, Kucherov has been the best offensive player in the league by a wide margin.

Since that stretch began on Feb. 20, Kucherov has scored 17 goals (four more than any other player in the league) and recorded 29 total points (eight more than any other player) to be the single biggest driving force behind the Lightning offense. His 29 points during that stretch mean he has had a hand (scoring or assisting) in 66 percent of the team’s goals (they have 44 during that stretch). He has scored close to 40 percent of them himself.

It is all part of an incredible season that has seen Kucherov climb to the top-five in the league in scoring even though he has missed seven games.

His 1.16 point per game average is third in the league among players that have played at least 60 games, trailing only Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, and he is only 0.02 points off of McDavid’s pace. He is doing that while owning a 56 percent Corsi percentage that is in the top-25 of the entire league.

He has been one of the most dominant players in the league this season, and has taken his game to an entirely new level in the past month just when the Lightning have needed it most. If they get in, it’s going to be because of him.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

Getty
2 Comments

He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

Getty
6 Comments

The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.