No lineup changes expected in Boston-Philadelphia; American-born players to watch

1 Comment

The Philadelphia Flyers are hoping for some big changes in tonight’s Game 2 match against the Boston Bruins, but those alterations must come from improved execution rather than fresh faces. Joe Haggerty reports that both teams are expected to feature the same lineups as Game 1 (yes, that includes Brian Boucher as the Flyers’ starter).

Boston @ Philadelphia (Versus)- 7:30 p.m. ET; Bruins lead series 1-0

Along with paying special attention to Lauren Hart (and Kate Smith) singing “God Bless America” tonight, especially patriotic fans might be curious to follow American-born players tonight. As you can see from this list, there aren’t a bunch of players from the United States, but many of them will play a prominent role in Game 2. (Birthplace information via the two teams’ official Web sites.)

Notable American Flyers (who are expected to play)

James van Riemsdyk (winger) – Middletown, New Jersey.
Matt Carle (defenseman) – Anchorage, Alaska.
Boucher (goalie) – Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

Notable American Bruins (who are expected to play)

Tim Thomas (goalie) – Flint, Michigan.

Again, this is a quality-over-quantity list. Both starting goalies are American, JVR is in the middle of a breakthrough playoff campaign and Carle’s had his struggles in the playoffs (his -7 rating indicates things haven’t always gone well), yet he’s still an important Philly defenseman who has been averaging 22 minutes per game in the playoffs. Obviously, all eyes were going to be on Boucher anyway, but now some fans might find more of a reason to root for him.

Thomas is the only prominent American on a Canadian-heavy Bruins roster. Boston might not have a ton of Americans on their roster, but Thomas is one of the best goalies in the NHL. He backed up Ryan Miller in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but if those games took place this year, he probably would have been the No. 1 guy.

***

The natural question is: how are players reacting to the news of Osama bin Laden’s death? While Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference is Canadian, he’s made a connection with many fans in the Boston area and had perhaps the most interesting reaction to the news. Here’s what he told Joe Haggerty.

Obviously most of the Bruins players are Canadian-born and prefaced any statements with that little bit of info, but many guys like Andrew Ference have planted roots in the Boston area – and have become friends with many B’s fans actively serving their country and joining in the hunt for bin Laden over the last 10 years.

Ference said his mind was on those people Monday morning, and on others who wouldn’t be at rest until justice was served with the terrorist leader that set the 9/11 tragedy in motion.

“I texted my friend Lucas right away and said ‘did you guys get him’ because they’ve all been watching Bruins games over there,” said Ference, referencing a US Army Ranger he’s befriended from Massachusetts. “We’ve been keeping tabs with them, and I know he’d been out for a couple of days because he told me they were going to ‘go out hunting for bad guys.’

“I texted him right away. He was excited because he said there were a lot of sleepless nights searching for [Bin Laden]. I’m really proud of those guys, you know? I didn’t feel it myself, but knowing them and how they put their butts on the line for us. To get a victory like that is pretty cool.”

Connor McDavid spoils Nathan MacKinnon’s return

Getty
Leave a comment

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Sunday’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche was supposed to be all about Nathan MacKinnon‘s return to the lineup, but Connor McDavid had other ideas.

The Oilers might be struggling, but McDavid had some individual success this month. On Sunday, the Oilers captain picked up his second hat trick of the month in Edmonton’s 4-2 win over Colorado.

In eight games this month, the 21-year-old has accumulated an impressive 11 goals.

Here’s his first tally of the game:

McDavid finished the game with a plus-3 rating, five shots on goal and a huge save in 19:52 of ice time. That’s right, a huge save. With the Avs leading 1-0 in the first period, McDavid prevented the opposition from going up by two.

His second tally tied the game at two, while his hat-trick goal was scored into an empty-net.

According to NHL Public Relations, He’s the first Oiler to score three hat tricks in a season since Petr Klima in 1990-91.

Meanwhile, MacKinnon returned the lineup after missing eight games with an upper-body injury. He had a minus-2 rating, four shots on goal and one hit in 22:20 of ice time. Only Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen had more ice time among Avalanche forward.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

American women try to sharpen aim for semifinal vs. Finland

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Shooting the puck is not an issue for the Americans. Finding the back of the net is, especially considering how many shots they are taking at the Olympics.

The United States has outshot each opponent in each of their first three games with a combined margin of 137-60. Yet they have just nine goals to show for all that work. Their offense withered in a opening 3-1 win over Finland. It’s not for lack of trying: Knight tied for the team-high with six shots in a win over the Russians and had four in the loss to Canada.

”Any good shooter knows that you’ve just got to take shots and some are going to go in, some aren’t going to go in,” Knight said. ”So hopefully the pucks start bouncing in the direction we want them to go.”

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson leads the Americans with three points after setting an Olympic record for the fastest back-to-back goals by a man or woman by scoring in 6 seconds in a 5-0 win over the Russians.

Stauber reunited Lamoureux-Davidson on the same line with her sister, Monique Lamoureux-Morando, just before these Olympics, and the twins have combined for five points in three games on a line with Kelly Pannek. Lamoureux-Davidson said they simply need to bury their chances.

”We had a lot of shots on net and a lot of opportunities, some loose pucks on the net in scrums, a few inches off in a lot of them, so we’ve just got to find a way to get those goals,” she said.

With the United States winning the last four world championships and seven of the last eight , the easy and usual assumption is the Americans would square off against Canada for the gold medal the Canadians have won each of the past four Olympics . But the United States lost to Sweden in 2006 and took home bronze from Turin.

The Americans are 7-0 against Finland (Sunday, Feb. 18, 11:10 p.m. ET, NBCSN) in the Olympics and have won 22 games in international competition with one overtime loss and one tie. But Finland beat Canada in pool play at the world championships last spring and has worked to take advantage of this opportunity.

”It’s sort of a one-game tournament now,” Knight said. ”We’ve got to win to advance to where we want to be. Can’t take Finland lightly. Every game is 50/50 going in, so just trying to sway the odds in our favor during the time of play.”

Stauber said he has tinkered less with the game plan based on their familiarity with the Finns, the world’s third-ranked team last year. Combined with how they’ve been shooting the puck, that’s why the Americans are focused on converting within 15 feet of the net.

Easier said than done with opponents working to clog up the middle to keep the United States from doing just that.

”Now we’ve got to execute and get the puck across the goal line,” Stauber said.

Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Devante Smith-Pelly addresses fans’ racial taunts

Getty
10 Comments

Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly met with the media on Sunday afternoon and discussed the incident that took place in Chicago on Saturday night when four Blackhawks fans were ejected from the game for directing racist taunts at him while he sat in the penalty box.

Smith-Pelly was penalized late in the third period following a fight and could be seen getting visibly frustrated with the fans sitting next to the glass.

“I was just in the box, just heard some chanting, some racially charged chanting I guess you could say,” said Smith-Pelly when explaining what he heard. “You could tell by my reaction I got pretty upset. It was a little different from the night before in Minnesota when that guy was just joking around I guess, he didn’t really cross the line. What was said this time around crossed the line, you could tell by my reaction.”

It was reported that the fans were chanting “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black.

Smith-Pelly said on Sunday that it was that one word being directed at him.

It’s pretty obvious what that means,” he said. “It’s not really a secret. It’s just one word, that’s all it takes. Whether it’s that word or any other word. We got the idea, or I got the idea, I am sure they got the idea too. Just one word, I guess that’s really all it takes.”

“It’s disgusting, I don’t even really know,” he continued. “It’s sad that it’s 2018 and we’re still talking about the same thing over and over. It’s sad that athletes like myself, 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You would think there would be some sort of change or progression, but we’re still working toward it I guess and we’re going to keep working toward it.”

Smith-Pelly said a similar taunt was directed at him when he was playing junior hockey in Penticton

“It happened one other time when I was younger,” said Smith-Pelly. “I had the same reaction back then. I didn’t really tell anyone about it, I guess I just kind of brushed it off. But we’re at a time now where we can’t brush it under the rug. You have to start calling people out, making sure people see other people’s true colors. I guess I’m trying to get the conversation started and show whoever these people are their true colors.”

You can watch Smith-Pelly’s entire media session here.

The NHL and the Capitals organizations both released statements regarding the issue on Sunday.

First, from the Capitals.

“The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also released a statement. February, it is worth pointing out, is “hockey is for everyone” month around the NHL.

“Last night in Chicago, individuals directed racial taunts and abuse at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly,” said Bettman in the statement.

“The National Hockey League condemns this unacceptable and reprehensible behavior. The League fully supports the actions taken by the United Center and the Blackhawks to eject the offenders and would expect the same response to any similarly unacceptable behavior at any of our arenas.

“While this incident was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games. The League will take steps to have our clubs remind all stakeholders that they are entitled to enjoy a positive environment – free from unacceptable, inappropriate, disruptive, inconsiderate or unruly behaviors or actions and may not engage in conduct deemed detrimental to that experience.”

————

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Flyers win again but lose another goalie

5 Comments

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

The Philadelphia Flyers continued their recent hot streak on Sunday afternoon by rolling into Madison Square Garden and crushing the New York Rangers, 7-4.

It helped them keep pace with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the race for the No. 2 spot (or perhaps even the top spot) in the Metropolitan Division and was their seventh win in the past eight games. Since losing 10 in a row earlier this season the Flyers are now on a 22-8-2 run.

It was a balanced offensive attack that featured the Flyers getting goals from seven different players, including captain Claude Giroux who scored his 200th career goal.

The Flyers also received goals from Travis Konecny, Jori Lehtera, Nolan Patrick, Scott Laughton, Brandon Manning, and Andrew MacDonald.

That is the good news for the Flyers.

The bad news is the win came with a price as they lost another goalie when Michal Neuvirth had to leave the game after the first period due to a lower body injury. He was replaced by rookie Alex Lyon who went on to stop 25 of the 26 shots he faced to record his first career win.

The problem for the Flyers is going to be if Neuvirth’s injury is anything serious because they are already without starting goalie Brian Elliott for the next few weeks. That could leave them dangerously thin at one of the most important positions on the ice at the worst time of the year. If Neuvirth misses any significant time it could force general manager Ron Hextall into a trade.

Sunday’s game got off to a pretty wild start as the two teams combined for six goals and three fights in the first period.

The fighting started just 15 seconds into the game when Shayne Gostisbehere dropped the gloves for the first time in his career. It was in response to a hit from Pavel Buchnevich on Konecny. It was Buchnevich’s second career fight and came in just his second game back in the lineup after he was sidelined due to a concussion.

Ten minutes later Wayne Simmonds dropped the gloves with Anthony DeAngelo, a bout that was followed by Cody McLeod and Dale Weise fighting just one minute later.

As for the Rangers, well, this one was ugly. The only good news is that a couple of their potential trade pieces (Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello) scored goals and perhaps gave their trade value a little bit of a boost. Other than that this was an ugly, ugly game as they gave up way too many chances, looked sloppy defensively, left Henrik Lundqvist out on an island too many times, while Lundqvist himself had a rough game.

The Rangers kept Lundqvist in for all seven goals against.

————

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.