Conn Smythe Trophy watch: Leading candidates after Game 2

In some ways, the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks’ most prominent Conn Smythe Trophy candidates probably haven’t changed much since we last took a look in mid-May. Yet with the field of teams down to two and Vancouver’s first two home games in the books, we can take a deeper look at which Canucks and Bruins players have the best chance to win the playoff MVP award.

We’ll start with the Canucks since they’re up 2-0 in the series.

Vancouver Canucks

Frontrunner: Ryan Kesler – One thing I think many potential voters overlook is the benefits Kesler receives from a matchup standpoint. He often draws easier opportunities to score since the Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara-type defensemen are usually sent at the Sedin twins. Let’s not forget that the Sedins took over the third period of Game 2 and weren’t much less dominant against the San Jose Sharks than Kesler was versus the Nashville Predators.

Of course, the converse side of getting better chances to score is that he also often faces much more difficult defensive assignments than the Sedin twins. Kesler does a little of everything from scoring (19 points in 20 games), winning faceoffs (54.6 to Henrik Sedin’s weak 45.6 percent) and killing penalties (he’s averaging 3:04 minutes of shorthanded per game, first among Vancouver forwards and second overall). He’s the do-everything forward for the Canucks and while many knew he was an impact player already, the 2011 playoffs have been a star-making experience for the American two-way forward.

His big goals and assists late in many games make him a no-brainer No. 1 candidate … for now.

Strong candidate 1: Roberto Luongo – For all the abuse he took in the first round, he’s been a huge difference maker in the playoffs. Despite a great performance by Tim Thomas in Game 1, Luongo stopped all 36 shots for a 1-0 shutout. He made 28 out of 30 saves to turn Boston away in Game 2 and really hasn’t had many low moments since struggling against the Chicago Blackhawks. Whether it’s skin-tight games against the Predators/Bruins or more wide-open affairs versus the Sharks and Blackhawks, he’s been the better goalie more often than not. Overall, his numbers are fantastic, with 14-6 record, .928 save percentage and 2.16 GAA.

Strong candidate(s) 2 and 3: The Sedin twins – Henrik Sedin has a league-leading 21 points and Daniel Sedin has 18 himself. Kesler is the obvious frontrunner right now, but if Henrik or Daniel put together a couple more multiple point explosions like they did at times in the Sharks series, you just never know.

Dark horse: Alex Burrows – The noted vegetarian might not be as steady of a threat as the other three forwards, but he’s made some huge plays in the postseason. Obviously, those two big OT goals would be the video clips of note, but he has 17 points in 20 games overall.

Boston Bruins

Frontrunner: Tim Thomas – The gulf between Thomas and any other Bruins contributor – even Zdeno Chara – seems pretty huge if you ask me. Thomas hasn’t always been pretty (and allowed a few bad goals, most notably that Game 2 OT tally), but the sum of his work has been astounding. If the Bruins get back into this series, it’ll probably take an astounding set of performances by Thomas, which would make his chances that much stronger. It’s been a great run either way, considering that fact that he has a .93 save percentage in the postseason, with a nice 2.27 GAA.

Strong candidate: Zdeno Chara – It’s been an up-and-down playoffs at times for the Bruins big defenseman, but he’s done everything for Boston. He plays huge minutes (28:17 per game), shows a willingness to comply with wacky power play experiments and has more better days than bad ones amid a very suspect Bruins defense.

Dark horse: David Krejci – The most underrated part of the Bruins’ team is their impressive top line, powered most by Krejci. He has 18 points in 20 games, including 10 goals (four game-winners). If Dan Hamhuis can’t play again, his line could create enough opportunities to turn this series around. An explosive finals round could give Krejci a solid chance to win the Smythe.


With 2-5 games remaining, there’s still plenty of time for these (and other) players to improve their argument for one of the best trophies in hockey. Who’s your frontrunner so far?

After missing on Ducks gig, Richardson lands with Hockey Canada

Luke Richardson 3
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Luke Richardson, the former player and bench boss that interviewed for Anaheim’s vacant head coaching gig this summer, has caught on with Hockey Canada as an assistant coach for the upcoming Deutschland Cup, per the Ottawa Sun.

Richardson, 47, is considered to be a quality NHL coach-in-waiting.

A veteran d-man with over 1,400 games played in Toronto, Edmonton, Philly, Columbus, Tampa Bay and Ottawa, he’s since enjoyed success as both an assistant coach with the Sens, and as their bench boss in AHL Binghamton.

In his first year with Bingo, Richardson led the club to a 44-21-1-7 record. He was named the AHL’s Eastern Conference all-star coach in his second year.

Richardson’s been praised for his work developing young prospects. Upon departing the Sens organization this summer — he asked GM Pierre Dorion to be considered for the head coaching gig in Ottawa, but was turned down — the club noted that 13 of Richardson’s players were recalled from Binghamton last season.

Earlier, Richardson received accolades for his work with the likes of Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Unsurprisingly, he’s been linked to a variety of NHL jobs.

Richardson was considered a frontrunner for the Sabres gig that eventually went to Dan Bylsma and, as mentioned above, was shortlisted and interviewed by Ducks GM Bob Murray to replace Bruce Boudreau (the job eventually went to Randy Carlyle).

“My confidence grew when I was with Binghamton and I have a plan about how to be successful in the NHL,” Richardson said, per the Sun. “But there are only 30 jobs and you’ve got to be patient.

“It’s unfortunate that if you do get a chance, it’s at somebody else’s expense, but I know that if I sign somewhere, I would immediately be on the clock, too.”

Taking a tourney gig with Hockey Canada has proven an effective way to break into — or, back into — NHL coaching. Guy Boucher led Canada at the 2014 and 2015 Spengler Cups, and subsequently scored the Sens gig this summer.

Stecher to make NHL debut for Canucks

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 09: Troy Stecher #2 of North Dakota skates against the Boston University Terriers during the third period of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championship semifinals at TD Garden on April 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.The Boston Terriers defeat North Dakota 5-3.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It didn’t take long for the injury bug to bite the Vancouver Canucks again. Head coach Willie Desjardins announced this morning that forwards Alex Burrows and Derek Dorsett were expected to miss 7-10 days, each with undisclosed ailments, and that defenseman Chris Tanev was day-to-day after getting banged up Sunday in Anaheim.

Of the three injured players, Tanev has by far the biggest role. The 26-year-old typically logs 20 minutes on the top pairing with Alex Edler. Tonight against Ottawa, Tanev will be replaced by rookie Troy Stecher, who will be making his NHL debut.

Stecher, 22, signed with the Canucks in April after three years at the University of North Dakota. He had an impressive preseason but was sent down to AHL Utica to start the year.

“Playing with Edler, certainly he’s going to get some hard match-ups,” said Desjardins, who opted to keep his other two defensive pairings together. Vancouver’s second pairing is Ben Hutton with Erik Gudbranson, its third is Luca Sbisa with Philip Larsen.

Another former college star, Jayson Megna, will make his Canucks debut tonight, stepping in for Burrows on the fourth line.

As for Nikita Tryamkin, the big Russian d-man is expected to be a healthy scratch for the seventh time in seven games.

“He’s still on the program,” said Desjardins. “We’re still trying to get him to where we want him to be. He’s not quite there yet.”

Tryamkin, 22, has refused to accept an assignment to the AHL.

Investor offers to build Seattle arena without public financing


From King 5 News in Seattle:

Chris Hansen and his investment team on Tuesday offered to forgo public financing to build a new sports arena in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood.

The group also said it would cover the current funding gap to build an overpass over Lander Street, a project long desired by freight and industrial interests concerned about congestion in around the Port of Seattle.

The proposal amounts to a stunning and swift turn in the nearly five-year debate over building a new arena and, ultimately, bringing a professional basketball and hockey team to the city.

Be sure to click on the story for all the details. These stories are rarely simple, and there’s still no guarantee that Hansen and his group will get permission to build their new arena.

But suffice to say, if a new arena does get built, Seattle will have a much better chance of landing an NHL franchise. Hansen has said he’s only interested in owning an NBA franchise, but back in 2014, billionaire Victor Coleman was reportedly working with Hansen to land an NHL tenant. It’s not clear if Coleman is still working with Hansen.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said that Seattle is not a consideration for relocation or expansion until there’s a suitable arena.


— Bettman rejects notion that the NHL is waiting for Seattle

— Pacific Northwest will ‘get serious consideration’ for expansion or relocation


Goalie nods: Subban to make second career start

Malcolm Subban

Plenty of noteworthy starts on a busy night — 11 games! — but let’s focus on the situation in Boston.

Yes, again.

Malcolm Subban will make his first start of the season and second of his NHL career when the Bruins host the Wild at TD Garden.

Guaranteed he’s hoping this one goes better than the last.

Subban lasted half a game in a loss to St. Louis last February, allowing three goals on just six shots before getting hooked. This test against Minnesota will be a tall one, especially given how Subban’s brief time in the AHL has gone — the former first-round pick is 0-3-1 with Providence this year, posting a 4.50 GAA and .846 save percentage.

As we wrote earlier, both Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin are injured, meaning Subban’s goalie mate in the American League — Zane McIntyre — will serve as Boston’s backup.

For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk gets the start.


— Justin Peters will make his first start for the Coyotes, who are in New Jersey. The Devils will go with Cory Schiender, after he stopped 28 of 29 shots in a win over Minnesota on Saturday.

James Reimer gives Roberto Luongo a night off as the Panthers visit Pittsburgh. He’ll be up against Marc-Andre Fleury, who continues to shoulder a heavy load with Matt Murray (hand) still out.

— It’s Cam Ward versus Petr Mrazek as the ‘Canes visit Detroit.

— The Bolts will go with Ben Bishop (even though Andrei Vasilevskiy will get more starts) in Toronto. No word on a Leafs starter yet, but it’s expected Frederik Andersen will go. Mike Babcock fielded some questions about Andersen this morning, in case you missed it.

Anders Nilsson makes his first start of the season for the Sabres tonight. Philly has yet to announce who’s going.

— After getting parked for the first meeting against his old team, Brian Elliott will start in goal for the Flames in St. Louis. Carter Hutton gives Jake Allen the night off for the Blues.

— It’s Michael Hutchinson versus Antti Niemi as the Jets take on the Stars in the first of a home-and-home set.

— Ottawa will give Craig Anderson the nod in Vancouver. No word on a Canucks starter yet — Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom split back-to-back games in Anaheim and Los Angeles over the weekend, with Miller playing in Sunday’s loss to the Ducks.

Martin Jones is going for the Sharks tonight, as they host the Ducks. Anaheim has yet to announce a starter.

— The in-form Sergei Bobrovsky, fresh off Saturday’s shutout of Dallas, goes for the Blue Jackets in Los Angeles. Peter Budaj was first off at the Kings’ morning skate. He’s been getting the job done for L.A. thus far, with both Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff out with injury.