In taking a look at how the Stanley Cup finals shape up, the way the Vancouver Canucks have improved each round. After being pushed to overtime in Game 7 of the first round against Chicago, they went six games with Nashville, and just five against San Jose in the Western Conference finals. While the Bruins don’t have any former Blackhawks to work as a potential bogeyman for Roberto Luongo to have nightmares over, there’s another solution the Bruins could use to try and find a way to slow down the Canucks. They can play like the Nashville Predators.
While the Predators ultimately folded against the Canucks, one thing they were able to do was shut down the Sedin twins. Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin combined for two goals and five assists over the six games and while that’s still OK production, it’s not like the kind of numbers we saw from the pair against either Chicago or San Jose. The Predators key to shutting them down was to have a pair of stellar defenders in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter shadow them for the majority of the series.
As it works out, the Bruins have a pair of defensemen playing spectacular themselves in the form of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. While Chara is the main focus of the defense, Seidenberg has been the sleeper hit of the playoffs for the Bruins. With the two of them paired up together, they were able to make life miserable on Tampa Bay and Philadelphia’s forwards. While Tampa forwards had a bit more success scoring, the work Chara and Seidenberg did throughout the Eastern Conference finals was outstanding. To beat Vancouver, those two will have to take a page out of Nashville’s book on how to stop the twins.
After seeing what Henrik Sedin did against San Jose scoring one goal and adding 11 assists, while Daniel Sedin added two goals and four assists of his own while helping linemate Alex Burrows come away with three goals and three assists of his own, the defensive capabilities of not just Chara and Seidenberg will be tested but also those of potentially Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly.
Bergeron and Kelly are two of Boston’s better defensive centers with Bergeron being perhaps the best on the Bruins roster. Figuring out how to shadow both the Sedin line and Ryan Kesler’s line will be something coach Claude Julien will have to figure out. Nashville was able to shut down the Sedins but Kesler abused the rest of Nashville’s defense on his way to single-handedly dominating the series and vaulting himself to the top of the Conn Smythe Trophy consideration list.
If the Bruins can get all of their forwards as well as their defense to stick together and play “Bruins hockey” to help neutralize the Sedins, the series shapes up to be much more interesting than it appears on first glance. Taking the Sedins out of the scoring mix makes these teams a lot more similar than they already are and for Boston, taking that elite level of talent out of the mix would be a huge win for Boston. Asking Chara and Seidenberg and the rest of the Bruins to do that for up to seven games makes for quite the tall order.
Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.
This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
In 43 games with the NCAA champions this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, three off his college career high set the previous year.
Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, bumping the number of players from that program’s junior class to turn pro to four since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.
Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.
Brock Boeser, a 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.
Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?
Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.
Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.
Official update on the really important story of the evening:
The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.
Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.
As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.
The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.
Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.
Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.
Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.
The Dallas Stars grabbed the all-important first goal in Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues on Friday. And it was agitating forward Antoine Roussel who capitalized in the second period.
Roussel buried a rebound at the end of a pretty passing play from the Stars. Blues goalie Brian Elliott was furious, as defenseman Jay Bouwmeester slid into the crease in an attempt to block the shot.