Five Thoughts: Boston and Tampa Bay play a Game 7 for the ages

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A Game 7 worthy of being labeled a Game 7. This isn’t your 7-0 Game 7 no show or something along those orders. In this case, Boston and Tampa Bay did the way it was meant to be done. Breakneck pace, chances for both sides, tremendous goaltending all around, and ultimately one team going home a tough loser. For Boston, their success in beating Tampa Bay 1-0 ends in euphoria for a night for the Bruins before heading into the Stanley Cup finals and dealing with the league’s best team in Vancouver. On this night, there are more than five thoughts one could have but we’ll keep it in check.

1. When breaking down what we might see in this game, the one thing we figured would be Tampa Bay’s toughest thing to deal with would be if Boston settled in and played “Bruins hockey” and sure enough that’s just what they got a massive dose of. A tight checking game, suffocating pressure from the Bruins forecheck, sticks in passing lanes, and solid goaltending from Tim Thomas. In essence, it was the absolute worst thing Tampa Bay wanted to see in this game.

There was no secret game plan from Lightning coach Guy Boucher and while the Lightning’s best players played well, no one was able to rise above the Bruins defense. You want “Bruins hockey” you saw it in textbook form tonight and it’s all thanks to Claude Julien’s due diligence.

2. Let’s get the elephant out of the room and just move along. Nathan Horton scores the only goal of the game in a game where it was questionable and highly arguable whether or not he should’ve been playing in thanks to his water bottle antics after Game 6. In my mind we all knew deep down that Horton wouldn’t get suspended, after all, it’s “just some water” and the next game was Game 7.

Of course, doing anything to fans should be an instant non-starter so allowing water to be squirted on fans, provoked or not, is something any professional athlete should most definitely know better than to do. Horton’s fortunate that the game was played in Tampa Bay where fans aren’t nearly as excitable as those in say Philadelphia or New York City. It’ll be a point of contention raised by Lightning fans from here on out but one likely to be quickly forgotten, right or wrong, from now on.

3. After everything that went down in Game 7 and with how tight these two teams were all series and all season long, it came down to one play to decide the game. One poor defensive breakdown by Tampa Bay on what appeared to be a set play by the Bruins to get Nathan Horton motoring and going full speed toward the net worked. David Krejci gets the puck at the half-boards and draws the attention of two Lightning defenders opening up the slot where Horton cruised through untouched until too late getting a perfect pass from Krejci. It’s a thing of beauty for Boston to have a play work that way and for Tampa Bay, it’s going to be a very painful replay to watch. One mistake and it turns the series. It’s incredible that this series turned out to be just that close.

4. Let’s give it up for Dwayne Roloson. He’s 41 years-old, he played like crap through most of the series against Boston, sat out of Game 5 in favor of Mike Smith to get a breather, and then played the game of his life in Game 7. Roloson stopped 37 shots in the Game 7 loss, his first loss in an elimination game in his career, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He had numerous highlight reel saves and frustrated Bruins scorers all night long. If not for that aforementioned mistake that game might still be going on now.

While we don’t know what Roloson’s future holds for him, he’s quietly had a very solid playoff career. From Minnesota, to Edmonton, now to Tampa Bay he’s had just a fantastic career as a guy who gets stuff done in the playoffs. No Stanley Cup wins will certainly hurt how people look at him overall, but what a gamer.

5. Now the Bruins’ real test lays ahead of them in the form of Vancouver, and a very well rested Canucks team by the time both teams drop the puck for Game 1 on Wednesday. The instant snap judgment on the series is that the Canucks are going to be licking their chops to get after the Bruins. Add in the possibility that Manny Malhotra could be healthy enough to suit up for them and things stack up tall against Boston.

Of course, there’s a reason they play the games and while Bruins fans have been waiting all playoffs long for Milan Lucic to snap out of things, him getting to suit up for a potential seven game series against his hometown team (Lucic is from Vancouver) should be enough to light a forest fire underneath him. Boston hasn’t had to deal with a team as deep nor as talented all around as Vancouver yet. It will be fascinating to see in action.

Trade: Flyers send Schenn to Blues, take on Lehtera’s contract

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Flyers GM Ron Hextall made a big splash at the end of the draft’s first round on Friday night, sending forward Brayden Schenn to St. Louis in exchange for Jori Lehtera, the 27th overall pick and a conditional first-round pick in 2018.

Schenn, 25, is coming off two pretty productive years with the Flyers, in which he scored 26 and 25 goals. He just wrapped the first of a four-year, $20.5 million deal — one that carries a $5.125M cap hit.

It’s a big get for the Blues, who now boast Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Robby Fabbri, Paul Stastny and Alex Steen at forward.

That hit is largely why Lehtera is on his way to Philly. Coming off a “bad” season in which he struggled with injury and healthy scratches, there was speculation he’d be made available at the expansion draft — which he was — and when he wasn’t selected by Vegas, the likelihood of a trade was high.

Lehtera makes $4.7 million annually, through 2019.

With the 27th overall selection, the Flyers took Sault Ste. Marie center Morgan Frost. Frost finished fourth on the Greyhounds in scoring this year and had a strong playoff, with five goals and 11 points in 11 games. It was the second center Philly scored in the first round, having previously selected Nolan Patrick with the No. 2 overall selection.

And here are the conditions around that ’18 pick:

 

 

Vilardi falls down draft board, but thrilled to join Kings

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CHICAGO — If Gabriel Vilardi was disappointed after falling down the draft board, he sure hid it well.

The 17-year-old center looked and sounded positively ecstatic to be joining the Los Angeles Kings, who got him 11th overall Friday at United Center.

“There’s no words to describe it,” said Vilardi. “It’s just joy. All your life you work so hard for this, and then to hear your name called, it’s just an amazing feeling. Having your family there, it’s even better.”

That said, the consensus was that he’d be drafted a fair bit sooner. At the Stanley Cup Final, he was one of four top prospects that the NHL trotted out for reporters. The other three were Nico Hischier, Nolan Patrick, and Casey Mittelstadt, the first, second, and eighth picks, respectively.

If there’s a knock on Vilardi, it’s his skating. To really thrive in the NHL, it’ll need to get better. That’s why he’s off to Minnesota this summer to work with power-skating coach Barry Karn.

“I know what I need to work on,” he said. “I got a plan in place.”

Vilardi just won the Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires. Now he’ll be joining a team that’s won two Stanley Cups in the last six years with the likes of Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Drew Doughty.

“I watch Kopitar a lot,” Vilardi said. “I really like the way he plays. I think some of his attributes are similar to mine. He’s so smart with the puck. He’s tough to knock off the puck. I can’t wait to go there, meet him and take whatever I can from him and apply it to my own game.”

Related: Gabriel Vilardi deserves your attention

McPhee, Golden Knights begin process of stockpiling talent

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The Vegas Golden Knights used the expansion draft this past week to stockpile draft picks in exchange for not selecting certain players. General manager George McPhee’s haul helped the team collect 12 draft picks for this year, including three of the top-15 picks in the first-round (No. 6 overall, No. 13 overall and No. 15 overall).

McPhee ended up keeping all three of his first-round picks and followed through on his commitment of drafting their way to success.

With those picks the Golden Knights selected a pair of centers, Cody Glass from the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks at No. 6, and Nick Suzuki from the Owen Sound Attack at No. 13.

From there, they began to build up their blue line by taking Swedish blue-liner Erik Brannstrom with the 15th overall pick.

With that collection of assets it was reasonable to imagine that McPhee might try to package some of them together to move up from their own pick at No. 6 overall, perhaps even to make a run at Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick with one of the top-two picks.

McPhee made it sound like Glass was one of their primary targets and even suggested they had a deal in place (involving one of their second-round picks) to make a move for him if needed.

He did not need to.

When asked about the comparisons Glass drew to Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele, McPhee said it was a fair comparison.

In the end, keeping all three first-round picks is probably the best-case scenario for Vegas when it comes to building an organization from the ground up. Luck was not on their side in the draft lottery and they didn’t get an opportunity to get one of the elite prospects, and as tempting as it might have been to make a bold move up for one this is a team that is literally starting from scratch. It needs talent all over the ice and a lot of times the best way to find success in the draft is by giving yourself as many opportunities as possible.

McPhee certainly did that for Vegas in their first ever draft.

Getting drafted by Wings a ‘dream come true’ for Rasmussen

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CHICAGO — The first thing you notice about Michael Rasmussen is his size.

This is a big kid the Detroit Red Wings just drafted out of the Western Hockey League.

Rasmussen stands 6-foot-6 and weighs around 215 pounds. The 18-year-old center scored 32 goals in 50 games for the Tri-City Americans last season.

“I’ve got a big wing span, so I protect the puck well,” he said after going ninth overall Friday at United Center. “When I have the puck, I pride myself on not getting it taken from me.”

For the Red Wings, this is a big pick in another way. Amazingly, Rasmussen is the first top-10 selection the organization has made since 1991, when Martin Lapointe was drafted 10th overall.

In other words, GM Ken Holland better be right about this kid.

Read more: A very different draft for Detroit

To realize his potential in the NHL, Rasmussen knows he’ll need to get faster on the ice.

“Obviously, being a big guy it’s tough to get a bigger frame around,” he said. “It’s something I’ll work hard on this summer with my speed coach. It’s something I need to improve for sure.”

A Vancouver native, Rasmussen was naturally a Canucks fan growing up. He particularly admired the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel.

“They were always in the community and giving back,” he said. “That’s something I admire, even more than their play. They’re amazing leaders and amazing people. They’ve done a lot for the city of Vancouver.”

Now Rasmussen hopes to do a lot for his future home and team.

“I think it was one of my hopes that I could go to Detroit,” he said. “My combine meeting went really well. It was in my mind that this was a place that I really wanted to go to. It’s a dream come true definitely.”