Brian Boucher

Five Thoughts: Flyers goaltending not all to blame for bad goals

Yesterday’s games in Philadelphia and Vancouver certainly gave us enough of a rainbow of both how to and how not to handle a playoff game. In Philadelphia old demons that never really went away resurfaced all in one bad afternoon. Meanwhile in Vancouver, teams traded blows in a defensive showdown that needed two overtimes to settle things out. With such a smorgasbord of action there’s plenty to discuss this morning.

1. Everyone’s busy talking about how the Flyers goaltending problems are once again in vogue and that’s understandable. After all, a team loses 7-3 and sees them make a goaltending change again in the playoffs mid-game, there’s clearly an issue there. In Philly, Brian Boucher just did not get things done  and Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t fare much better in relief. Those guys are worth of criticism and that’s fine.

What’s not getting scrutinized enough from yesterday’s game are the failings of the Flyers defense. For the entire game their defensemen were busy trying to keep up with the constant motion of Boston’s forwards and they seem shocked by how often Bruins defensemen jumped into the play to mix things up offensively. Flyers defensemen were chasing players all over and getting confused or lost on their assignments leaving Bruins forwards all the room around the net to make plays or pounce on rebounds untouched. If the defensemen had problems keeping up, the Flyers lines had a hard time matching up with the Bruins top line as Nathan Horton and David Krejci dominated whoever lined up across from them.

From Peter Laviolette on down to the players, they had no answers for Boston. They’ll need to fix things defensively fast or else things are going to head south quickly. They need to straighten up their assignments and play things a lot tougher and a lot tighter on top of it all.

2. The scary part of what Boston did was that they saw a breakout game from David Krejci. Krejci ascended to the role of #1 center after Marc Savard was knocked out for the season. Since then Krejci has had some injuries and he’s been very inconsistent. In the playoffs, however, he’s turned back into the playmaking type center they knew he could be. Getting two goals and two assists in yesterday’s rout could be a sign of great things for the Bruins as a healthy and motivated Krejci on the top line to help get Horton free and perhaps even wake up Milan Lucic would be huge in helping them go even deeper in the playoffs. Asking Krejci to be the new Savard is asking too much of him, but having him be the best he can be is all the Bruins really need now.

3. What’s all the more amazing about the Bruins doing as well as they are is that their power play continues to stink out loud. They’re now 0-26 in the playoffs with the man advantage and by all appearances not getting any better at all. Even in a game where they gave up seven goals, none of them came on the power play. That’s wretched. The Bruins are rolling on borrowed time as far as this stat is concerned. They’ll run into someone capable of edging them out consistently and those opportunities where they’re not scoring with the extra man will haunt them. Claude Julien says they’re working things out but the most immediate change they can make for the better is to put a shock collar on Tomas Kaberle and whenever he doesn’t shoot he gets a jolt.

4. If you needed an exercise in how to play goalie in the NHL look no further than Game 2 between Vancouver and Nashville. Pekka Rinne got the win stopping just 32 shots through nearly five full periods, but it was his stops in the two overtimes that made his night look spectacular in leading the Predators to a 2-1 double OT victory. Roberto Luongo too was fantastic in defeat stopping more than 40 shots on goal. With both guys being Vezina Trophy finalists it’s thrilling to see both of them living up to the designation against each other.

5. One area of major concern for the Canucks, however, has to be their offense. With just two goals against Nashville in two games and the biggest of the big names not showing up yet, there’s reason for the Canucks to be nervous. If Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Ryan Kesler don’t start finding their way to the score sheet more often, things are going to get ugly in Vancouver. With Nashville not making life any easier on those players, it’s up to them, the Sedins in particular, to play like MVPs and lead the charge. Easier said than done we know, but if they really want to impress us, lighting it up in the playoffs would do the trick.

Capitals, Penguins nearly perfect at stopping third period comebacks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) chase down the puck during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Pittsburgh only won by a single goal in Game 2 on Saturday and that deciding marker came with 4:28 minutes remaining in the third, but that contest had the potential to be far more one-sided.

The Capitals were outshot 28-10 through 40 minutes and were consequently leaning on goaltender Braden Holtby to keep things close.

“First two periods, I thought they were way better than us,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. Or has Justin Williams put it, the Capitals “were getting embarrassed out there” during the first 40 minutes.

Washington did rebound in the third period, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from evening this series at 1-1. That puts the pressure on Washington to take at least one game in Pittsburgh before the second round’s over.

Starting the game off strong is always going to be important, but that’s particularly true when talking about the Penguins and Capitals. Pittsburgh was 39-0-0 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes while Washington was 37-0-1. So far in the playoffs, both teams are 4-0-0 when they have the lead after two periods.

Hemsky finds his groove on third line

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 11: Ales Hemsky #83 of the Dallas Stars handles the puck against the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center on April 11, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
NHLI via Getty Images
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When the Dallas Stars inked Ales Hemsky to a three-year, $12 million deal, the hope was that he would be a valuable secondary scorer and help round out their top-six. Things haven’t gone as predicted, but Hemsky has emerged as a significant player for Dallas lately.

Hemsky is now playing on the third line with Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel and he’s gone on to record 15 points in his last 16 regular season games as well as another four points in seven playoff contests.

“We had hard conversations about how I felt the game needed to be played, where I felt his game needed to go,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “Did it always go his way? No. But from his defensive responsibilities to really buying into shooting the puck a little bit more, I think he’s been a real good asset for us this year.”

The Morning News goes into much more detail about Hemsky and his resurgence, but taking a step back from that, having a third line that’s both impactful without the puck and capable of chipping in offensively is important, especially as we get deeper into the playoffs. There’s no question that the Stars have big time players on their roster, but that’s obviously not all you need in the playoffs.

A lot of the time when talking about the Stars’ areas of concern, their defense and goaltending come up and understandably so given that Dallas allowed more goals in the regular season than any other team that made the playoffs. But the value of a strong bottom-six shouldn’t be understated and perhaps Hemsky’s recent resurgence will play a role in the Stars having that going for them throughout the playoffs.

Dallas has taken a 1-0 lead over St. Louis in the second round and has an opportunity to build on that in Game 2 this afternoon (3:00 p.m. ET).

NHL schedules hearing with Orpik over Maatta hit

Maatta
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Brooks Orpik‘s late hit in Game 2 on Saturday might keep him out of Monday’s contest.

At the very least, the NHL Department of Player Safety intends to discuss the matter with Orpik today, per the department’s Twitter feed.

The incident occurred early in the first period when the Capitals forward smashed into Olli Maatta. The Penguins blueliner collapsed and needed some assistance getting off the ice. He didn’t return to the game.

You can see that hit below:

“I thought it was a late hit,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

The Penguins didn’t have an update on Maatta’s condition immediately following the contest.

‘I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,’ Jets GM Cheveldayoff gets lucky with draft lottery

Kevin Cheveldayoff, general manager of Winnipeg Jets, speaks to members of the media after winning the second selection of the NHL hockey draft lottery in Toronto, Saturday, April 30, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
The Canadian Press via AP
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The Toronto Maple Leafs may have won the draft lottery, but an argument can be made that the luckiest team last night was the Winnipeg Jets.

After all, Toronto had the best odds to get the top pick, but Winnipeg jumped from sixth to second in the draft order.

“I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told the Winnipeg Sun. “I was doing my scrum at the end (of the show) with the media that was here, I said at one point, ‘Moving from six to two…’ and I had to catch myself and go through the mental notes in my head that it had just really happened.”

It’s likely, though not guaranteed, that the Maple Leafs will take Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. Assuming that’s the case, moving up to the second overall pick means that Winnipeg will have the option of choosing one of the two promising Finnish forwards available: Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi.

That’s potentially a big break for Winnipeg, especially after this campaign where the Jets went from making the playoffs for the first time since relocating to posting a 35-39-8 record. Through five campaigns in Winnipeg, the Jets have missed the playoffs four times.

The last time this franchise drafted this high was back when the then Atlanta Thrashers took Kari Lehtonen with the second overall pick in 2002. That was the final year in a string of four straight drafts where the Thrashers always had the first or second selection. The previous three years they took Patrik Stefan (1999), Dany Heatley (2000), and Ilya Kovalchuk (2001).

Related: Shanahan: Leafs earned No. 1 pick ‘the hard way’