Five Thoughts: Flyers and Bruins give us lots to chew on

We know that there were two potential elimination games yesterday but when one team fights off elimination while the other is bounced out, we’re a bunch of negative nellies here and want to focus on the team who got tossed out while lauding the winner. Hey, we’re good at that here aren’t we?

1. It’s quite remarkable to see two teams roaring into the Eastern Conference final the way we’re seeing both Tampa Bay and Boston doing that. Boston’s sweep of Philadelphia and Tampa sweeping out the top seeded Caps should translate into these two having an incredible series. The coaching matchup is also worthy of intrigue. Both Claude Julien and Guy Boucher are noted defensive tacticians but their teams are scoring tons of goals this postseason. Whenever there’s worries about the game slowing down and becoming dull again, these teams have been getting singled out. Their ability to put the puck in the net and push the pace of the game when needed, however, proves differently.

2. Obviously with the Flyers getting swept out, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered there. GM Paul Holmgren and coach Peter Laviolette will be dealing with queries into the team’s goaltending until they do something different. Whether you believe they need to go with an affirmed number one goalie or pick one guy out of the bunch they’ve got and ride him til he breaks, that’s up for debate. One thing that hurt the Flyers more than anything in this series was erratic defensive coverage. Too many times Bruins players were left alone for shots or to follow up rebounds because defenseman were busy chasing ghosts. That lack of dedication to manning up doesn’t cut it.

3. Of course, it does come back to goaltending for the Flyers ultimately and given how well Sergei Bobrovsky played in spite of losing in Game 4 makes you wonder why he lost his starting job after one bad game against Buffalo in the opening round. It can be tough to stomach a bad start in the playoffs, but pulling the plug on a rookie goalie that carried the team for most of the year after one bad game seems really dumb in retrospect. While the goalie shuffling worked out decently for Philly last year, this year every change carried that air of panic. Whether or not the Flyers choose to address this in the offseason will be fascinating. Bobrovsky is a talented young guy but there are free agent options to be had out there that better fit the bill if looking for a #1 guy.

4. If the Milan Lucic who showed up in Game 4 is the guy that’s going to show up against Tampa Bay, the Lightning have their hands full. Lucic was buzzing the net and asserting himself all game long, something he had yet to do at all in the playoffs. Getting the mix of physical play and goals from Lucic is key because if he’s got his game going the Bruins just seem to be more at home on the ice. With Patrice Bergeron potentially out for a while with a concussion, they’ll really need Lucic to be a force.

5. We’re not ignoring the Red Wings and Sharks too badly here but with how thin the margin of error has been for all four games of this series, it’s crazy to think how much closer this series could be. It’s crazy to see four one-goal games like this and think that either team has definitive control over the series.

That said, if Detroit pulls out a win tomorrow in Game 5 it’ll make for a good test of will for the Sharks. After all, they’re just one win from the Western Conference final and while Detroit isn’t about to roll over easily, they are the kind of team that if given the opportunity can rattle off four wins in a row. If the Sharks want to avoid making history, they’ll repeat what they did in Game 5 against Detroit last year and snuff out all Red Wings hope. Otherwise they’re inviting danger into a series that’s seen fortune smile upon them.

Yeo more surprised than anyone to learn of Stastny injury

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For the second time since taking over as head coach, Mike Yeo has lost the services Paul Stastny.

This time, though, Yeo was caught off guard.

“It may sound misleading, but it was a completely separate injury that kept him out of (Tuesday’s) game and one that we believed would have him possibly in the lineup for us tonight,” Yeo told the Post-Dispatch of Stastny’s lower-body ailment, which will keep him out week-to-week. “We were surprised to hear that this came about yesterday.

“Believe me, I was probably more surprised than all the fans out there. So it’s a difficult one, but one that we’ll have to overcome.”

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during Tuesday’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious — and it very well may not haven been — but that’s irrelevant now, as an entirely new issue could potentially sideline Stastny for the remainder of the regular season.

The Blues are in good shape for a playoff spot, up eight points on L.A., but are jockeying with Nashville for third spot in the Central Division (both head into tonight’s action with 83 points). St. Louis also has 10 games left.

There’s no denying Stastny’s absence will be felt. Back when he missed four games in early February, Yeo noted how integral he was to the club.

“He’s usually the first guy over the boards for a power-play faceoff or the first guy over the boards for a penalty-kill faceoff, and those are key,” Yeo said, per the Blues website. “He’s a very important player for us. You don’t take out a top-line center from too many lineups where they don’t feel that.”

Limited to just 66 games this season, Stastny has still managed to score 18 goals — third-most on the team — and 40 points. He also averages a healthy 19:08 TOI per night.

Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski

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Last summer, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter stressed that some of the club’s young prospects needed to make an impact at the NHL level.

And now it’s happening.

Following the recalls and NHL debuts of Adrian Kempe and Paul LaDue, the Kings have brought up Jonny Brodzinski from AHL Ontario, the club announced on Thursday.

Brodzinski, 23, made the AHL All-Star team this year and leads the Reign in goals, with 25 through 56 games. The former St. Could State sniper left school early two years ago to join the Kings organization, after L.A. took him in the fifth round of the ’13 draft.

As mentioned above, this recall is in lockstep with what’s developed throughout the year. Kempe, 20, was the club’s first-round pick (29th overall) in ’14 and has fared well since joining the big club, with six points in 16 games.

LaDue, 24, was a sixth-round pick in ’12 that — like Kempe and Brodzinski — fared well in the American League before getting recalled in February. LaDue has appeared in 15 games for the Kings, scoring five points while averaging 16:25 TOI per night.

Los Angeles is still technically in the playoff race, but sits eight points back of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with just 10 games to play. As such, the focus might now shift to giving some youngsters NHL experience.

Brodzinski will have to wait for his, however. Per LA Kings Insider, it doesn’t look like he’ll play tonight, when the Kings host the Jets at Staples.

 

 

Polak gets two games for boarding Bjorkstrand

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Roman Polak‘s hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand has drawn more than the ire of Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella.

Today, the NHL announced that Polak, a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been suspended two games for boarding Bjorkstrand Wednesday in Columbus.

In making the ruling, the league’s Department of Player Safety determined that Polak sent Bjorkstrand “violently” into the boards from behind, causing an injury. The DoPS also noted that the hit was avoidable, with the onus on Polak to “ensure that he avoids this hit entirely, or at the very least, minimizes the force of the impact.”

You can watch the full ruling below:

Wild prospect Kunin leaves Wisconsin, turns pro

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Minnesota is getting one of its prized youngsters in the mix.

Luke Kunin, the club’s first-round pick (15th overall) at last year’s draft, is leaving the University of Wisconsin following his sophomore campaign, per the Star-Tribune. Kunin will reportedly join Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa on an amateur tryout.

Kunin, 19, is coming off a pretty successful campaign. He was the first soph to captain the Badgers in over 40 years, and led the team in goals (22) and points (38). That came after he captained the U.S. to gold at the world juniors, scoring four points in seven games.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Kunin will play out this year in the minors, and his entry-level deal will kick in next season. That means he won’t be with the Wild at all this year — regular season or playoffs.

As mentioned, Kunin is just one of the many talented prospects Minnesota has in the fold. Russian Kirill Kaprizov, Sweden’s Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kunin’s U.S. junior teammate, Jordan Greenway, all showed extremely well at the worlds.