Philadelphia Flyers v Boston Bruins

The imact of Patrice Bergeron’s injury on the Boston Bruins

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While their power play would probably be better with him, the Boston Bruins haven’t really missed a beat with Marc Savard on the shelf. It’s quite possible that another concussion to another high-level center will have a much bigger effect on this Bruins team.

If you ask me, Patrice Bergeron’s mild concussion could be a major problem. Bergeron doesn’t generate much attention since he isn’t the high scoring forward he was before his first set of concussions, but there are many who believe that he deserved a Selke Trophy nomination this season.

Even in a well-balanced attack like Boston’s, Bergeron was standing out during the first two rounds of the playoffs. He’s tied for second place in the 2011 playoffs for points scored with 12 (two goals and 10 assists) and boasts an astounding 64.2 faceoff winning percentage. His +7 rating shows that good things happen when his line is on the ice.

Bergeron’s slick passing skills and great two-way play fueled a great line with Brad Machand (five goals and six assists for 11 points) and Mark Recchi (two goals and five assists for seven points). As dominant as the Nathan Horton-David Krejci-Milan Lucic line was in Round 2, Bergeron powered the team’s most consistent line.

Now someone else will need to try to maintain that strong second line play. Bergeron is expected to miss at least the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, but let’s face it; concussion symptoms can linger for random amounts of time. It’s possible that the Bruins will need a longer term fix. Here are three candidates who are most likely to step in for Bergeron.

1. Chris Kelly – Kelly’s been a fantastic addition to the Bruins lineup, as he’s enjoying great chemistry on the third line with Rich Peverley and Michael Ryder. Kelly is the most likely fit because, like Bergeron, he’s a responsible player in his own zone. Here’s what Bruins coach Claude Julien said about Kelly.

“Kelly is a good two-way player. He makes strong plays and we’ve seen him on that other line and his style of play is not unlike Bergy’s,” said Chiarelli. “Watching him (Friday) night it looks like it would be a good fit.”

2. Rich Peverley – Speaking of Peverley, he’s closer to Bergeron’s level from an offensive standpoint. He is a nice playmaker, but might be a defensive liability against the Tampa Bay Lightning’s better offensive players.

3. Tyler Seguin – As Joe pointed out, Seguin will get his chance to play in the postseason with Bergeron’s injury. Seguin is a raw offensive talent who isn’t quite there yet, but who knows, the playoffs might be a good launching pad for the second pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The fact that he’s been a healthy scratch in the playoffs shows that he must earn Julien’s trust to get big minutes, though.

One bonus with the unlikely choice of lining Seguin up with Recchi and Marchand is that the team could keep the Peverley-Kelly-Ryder line together.

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The Bruins will do their best to replace Bergeron for however long he’s out, but it’s unlikely that they’ll find a player at his level. That being said, they do have some options. All three of the choices above are considered “natural” centers, so Julien can mix-and-match to see what the best option might be. This team already excels with an offense-by-committee approach, so it might not be crazy to think that everyone can step it up a bit in Bergeron’s absence.

WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Sharks at Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Pittsburgh Penguins fans sit outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.

Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.

The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.

Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Vlasic on the unenviable task of matching up against Crosby

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21:  Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 and Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada look on during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff against the United States on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
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Plenty of people believe that the San Jose Sharks’ defense is superior to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ personnel, but it’s one thing to be better on paper. When you’re on the ice, against a speedy and talented team, can you really stop the Penguins?

All signs point to sorely underrated Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic drawing the difficult assignment of trying to slow down Sidney Crosby.

Vlasic, a former Team Canada teammate of Crosby (as you can see from this post’s main image), realizes that he’ll have his hands full. In fact, he seems to believe that this will be an even tougher challenge than trying to solve St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

The fantastic all-around defender isn’t exactly expecting to reinvent the wheel in his strategy against Crosby.

“It will be the same as in the first three series,” Vlasic said, via The Hockey News. “We’re playing against the top players on every time – Sid, (Evgeni) Malkin and those types of guys for Pittsburgh. Me and (Justin Braun) will just keep doing what we did, taking away time and space and hopefully it works out.”

The two players have had glowing things to say about each other for some time, but don’t be surprised if this high-level competition turns those happy thoughts into hard feelings.

It stands as one of the matchups to watch in what could be a fresh and fascinating Stanley Cup Final.

Red Wings look to future in net … a future possibly without Howard

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 07:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on April 7, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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This summer looks like it could be one of changes for the Detroit Red Wings, even beyond the most obvious storyline of Pavel Datsyuk‘s future.

One area where the Red Wings would like to make some tweaks is in net, namely in trading Jimmy Howard. The Detroit Free-Press points out that GM Ken Holland admitted that moving the former franchise netminder “might be good for the organization.”

It’s reasonable to wonder what kind of market there will be for Howard, whose deal ($5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19) looks pretty tough to stomach on paper.

Maybe it’s best to consider the Red Wings’ options if Howard starts the 2016-17 season off on a strong note, or something of that nature. Perhaps an expansion draft could “solve” that problem if Detroit cannot find any takers?

The Red Wings remain forward-thinking and patient, which likely explains why the Free-Press focuses on their confidence with prospect Jared Coreau.

“In the big scheme of things, he’ll play in Grand Rapids for another year, but now we know he can play a lot of minutes if needed,” Goalie coach Jeff Salajko said. “Jimmy Howard played four years in the minors. We’re not rushing Jared, but he is going to be an NHL goalie, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”

In other words, a pairing of Petr Mrazek and Coreau wouldn’t just be a cost-effective duo … it might just be the Red Wings’ ideal scenario in the not-too-distant future.

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.