One potential feel-good story line we’ve been watching is the health of Canucks forward Manny Malhotra. Malhotra is attempting to get back on the ice for the Stanley Cup finals after nearly losing his vision in March due to a puck that caught him in the eye. While Malhotra was cleared for light contact last week to practice with the team, Malhotra hasn’t participated in the team skates the last two days casting doubt as to whether or not he would play in Game 1 tonight at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
As it turns out, Malhotra isn’t quite ready to complete his miraculous recovery from what was nearly a career-ending injury and will not play tonight. Canucks assistant GM Lorne Henning confirmed today that Malhotra would not play and getting the start on Vancouver’s fourth line instead will be young center Alexandre Bolduc. Bolduc has played in just two playoff games this year and has averaged 4:39 of ice time in those games.
With Malhotra close to coming back, his return to the ice will provide a huge emotional lift to the Canucks and while they may not need that kind of inspiration, the fact that he’s as close as he is impressive enough. If Malhotra is able to get back in the lineup and contribute the way he did in the regular season, it shifts the focus of how the Bruins need to prepare as Malhotra is one of the better defensive forwards on the team and a faceoff specialist. Vancouver’s done well in the playoffs without him, but a healthy Malhotra added to that lineup makes them that much more dangerous.
It’ll be up to Boston to take advantage of Malhotra’s absence and try to expose both Bolduc and Maxim Lapierre as potential weaknesses at center as they’re not likely to get the same kind of break from either Ryan Kesler or Henrik Sedin. Expect to see David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron to do their part to make that happen as much as they can. Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly will also do their part to mix things up and make life tough up the middle for Boston.
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.