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Head injuries aren’t slowing down Patrice Bergeron and Simon Gagne

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Going into the Eastern Conference finals, the health of Simon Gagne and Patrice Bergeron ranked as two of the bigger questions. Both Gagne and Bergeron came into the 2011 playoffs with a history of concussion issues and suffered head injuries in their second round series. Gagne came back in Game 1 while Bergeron had to wait until Game 3, but in both cases, it was natural to wonder if they would be able to contribute on their traditionally high levels.

As it turns out, it seems like each player hasn’t missed a beat.

Gagne causes problems for the Bruins again

Gagne is the leading scorer for the Tampa Bay Lightning in this series, scoring three goals and two assists for five points and a +5 rating in five games. He was the only Lightning player to score a goal in Game 5 by finishing a nice one-timer set up by Steven Stamkos. This five-game run pushes his 2011 playoff point total to 11 points in 12 games, with a +7 rating.

(Then again, maybe Gagne is just a Boston Bruins killer. He tormented the Bruins as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers in their 2010 semifinals series, scoring four goals and one assist for five points and a +2 rating in the four games he played.)

Bergeron lifts Bruins’ play at both ends

A mild concussion kept Bergeron off the ice for the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals, but he’s right back to his spot as the team’s most complete forward. He scored two goals and one assist for three points and a +3 rating in his three games back. He’s also been dominant in the faceoff circle, winning 64 percent of his draws in Game 3 and about 55 percent in Game 4 and 5. Bergeron is tied with five other players for third place in playoff scoring with 15 points.

Obviously, these two cases provide small sample sizes, but both players seem like they’ve made seamless returns. Gagne might not get the same attention as Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos or Martin St. Louis but he’s another dangerous forward for the Lightning.

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Bergeron is a do-everything forward as always for Boston, playing big minutes and making great plays, such as his sublime pass to set up Brad Marchand’s game-winning goal in Game 5.

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Concussions are a worrisome issue in the NHL, but it’s nice to see Gagne and Bergeron bounce back so profoundly from those injuries.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

ST PAUL, MN - MAY 6: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against Zach Parise #11 and Jason Pominville #29 of the Minnesota Wild during the first period in Game Three of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Price didn’t just play for Habs; he made the difference vs. Rangers

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It’s one thing for Carey Price to shake off that Paul Byron shot in warm-ups. And, honestly, that bump from Shea Weber during the game. But to play like, well, Carey Price? That would be something else.

Well, you probably saw this one coming … but Price had some absolutely great moments against the New York Rangers in an eventual 3-2 shootout win.

He was the main difference-maker, although it must be said that there’s some comic relief in Byron scoring the shootout-winner.

Price vs. Rick Nash felt like a subplot of the overall story.

On one occasion, Price made a resounding stop on a Nash breakaway:

It was quite the night for the aging power forward, however, as he nailed his other opportunity.

Some might be a little sad that Nash vs. Price didn’t go against each other in the shootout, but hey, maybe the two teams could save that for next time?

The Canadiens needed this win more than the Rangers. The Ottawa Senators actually briefly went ahead for first place in the Atlantic Division, but now Montreal has 72 points to Ottawa’s 70 … while the Sens hold two games in hand.

Similar tweets might end up being relevant, however. Though betting against Price is also a dicey proposition.

Video: Laine hits 30 goals vs. Matthews and Leafs, Byfuglien battles Martin

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Patrik Laine might rub some people the wrong way with his matter-of-fact brand of swagger, but the Winnipeg Jets rookie can back up that talk.

Just look at how he performs against fellow Calder Trophy hopeful Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Back in October, Laine stole the show with a hat trick. He has a chance to do that again, but either way, with two goals in as many periods, Laine hit the 30-goal mark as a rookie. In February.

His 29th goal came less than five minutes into the game:

He then hit the big 3-0 in the dying seconds of the middle frame, though that was far from the only noteworthy moment of the clip above this post’s headline.

As you can see, there were bodies being thrown around, culminating with a brief bout between Dustin Byfuglien and Matt Martin. The earth may or may not have shook from such an altercation. It wasn’t the only example of violence between the two teams tonight.

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It’s been a nice milestone night for young Jets scorers, as Nikolaj Ehlers also scored his 20th goal of 2016-17.

That 30th goal came less than 30 seconds after Leo Komarov‘s second goal of the contest, putting Winnipeg up 4-3 heading into the third period. For all we know, the Jets might need even more from Laine tonight.

No helmet, no stick, no problem as Preds’ Watson blocks shot anyway

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Sometimes, when you ponder a player who opts not to wear a visor, you wonder if that person cares about their health. Then you remember that it takes a certain mixture of bravery and recklessness to be a professional hockey player in the first place.

Even so, there are moments that stand out as especially “hockey tough” – and, yes, reckless – with Austin Watson of the Nashville Predators fitting both labels well on Tuesday.

It’s already brave and dangerous to block a shot with your full gear, but Watson did so without his stick and without his helmet against the Calgary Flames. Luckily, the shot didn’t hit him up high … but dude.