Cory Schneider, Roberto Luongo

Should Roberto Luongo start Game 5 for Vancouver?

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Through the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals, Roberto Luongo appeared to be the man destined to make a run at the Conn Smythe Trophy leading the Canucks to victory. He earned a shutout in Game 1 and held strong to get the Canucks to overtime to win Game 2.

In Boston, things took a vastly more disturbing turn as Luongo went on to allow 12 goals in 103 minutes played through Games 3 and 4 as the Canucks dropped both games by a combined score of 12-1. Cory Schneider took over for Luongo just minutes into the third period of Game 4 and did his part by stopping all nine shots he faced as the Bruins took Game 4 4-0.

So now we have to ask the question: Should Luongo start in Game 5? After all, the last time we saw Luongo get lit up this hard by an offense it came in Games 4 and 5 against Chicago in the first round of this year’s playoffs. Vancouver dropped Game 4 7-2 and then lost Game 5 5-0. Cory Schneider then got the call to start in Game 6, a game he ultimately left early thanks to injury and saw Luongo come into only to lose in overtime 4-3.

Some are thinking that coach Alain Vigneault might do the same thing this time around. We’re not so quick to jump on that bandwagon for a big reason. Against Chicago, the Canucks were playing with house money in Game 6. They had a 3-2 series lead heading into that game and if Schneider helped get the Canucks past their mental nemesis from Chicago, all was well. This time around the fate of the Stanley Cup finals hangs in the balance.

The winner of Game 5 will have a chance to end the series on Monday in Game 6. For Vancouver, a Game 5 loss could mean the end of the series given how poorly they played in Boston. For Vancouver, a win in Game 5 would mean they’d at least buy themselves a one game grace period should they get bombed on again in Boston. Versus’ Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick said they’d stick with Luongo for Game 5.

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Of course, there’s the worry about whether or not Luongo is going through a mental phase here where he loses focus and confidence. You could argue that two or three of the goals he allowed in Game 4 he should’ve stopped. He certainly should’ve had Rich Peverley’s first goal that beat him five hole and he had to have Michael Ryder’s shot that beat him over the shoulder.

Luongo had his own reasons why he missed on Ryder’s goal saying the shot dipped about three feet after glancing off Sami Salo’s stick. We’re a bit skeptical of that take but we’re not the pros here.

So what would you do? Would you go back to your Vezina Trophy finalist who had a couple of bad games or would you go with your rookie backup goalie who has looked decent in the limited duty he’s had in the playoffs? Let us know in the comments and vote in our poll as to what you would do.

Lehtonen only lasts one period in Game 2

Lehtonen
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Kari Lehtonen might have been more hit than miss in the playoffs going into today’s action, but Game 2 against St. Louis was certainly a start he’d like to forget.

Dallas outshot St. Louis 10-5 in the first frame, but the Blues still managed to take a 3-1 lead. Antti Niemi replaced Lehtonen for the second period which means, barring another goalie change, Lehtonen will actually end up with a sub-.500 save percentage this afternoon.

The numbers obviously look bad and it’s hard not to blame Lehtonen in the face of that, but the Blues deserve a lot of the credit for those goals. Patrik Berglund had a great shot on goal for the first marker, Joel Edmundson‘s first career playoff goal came after a nice setup by Troy Brouwer, and when Brouwer collected his own goal it was off of a rebound during a power play.

So to an extent, you could say Lehtonen looked bad due to circumstances that were very unfavorable to him. Nevertheless, the Stars needed to shake things up after what was unquestionably a bad period for them.

Dupuis, Jagr, Zuccarello are Masterton Trophy finalists

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 18:  Pascal Dupuis #9 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in action against the New York Rangers during their game at Madison Square Garden on December 18, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis, Florida’s Jaromir Jagr, and the Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello have been selected as the three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The Masterton Trophy recognizes “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” In 2015 it went to Devan Dubnyk, who struggled mightily in 2013-14, but dramatically turned his career around the following season and led the Minnesota Wild to the playoffs in the process.

Dupuis attempted to play in the 2015-16 campaign while taking blood thinners, but on Dec. 8 he announced that he would stop playing “because of a medical condition related to blood clots.”

Jagr celebrated his 44th birthday in February, but despite his age he managed to score 27 goals and 66 points in 79 contests this season. With that, he became the oldest player to reach the 60-point mark in a single NHL campaign.

Zuccarello played in 81 games and set career-highs with 26 goals and 61 points this season after suffering a skull fracture and brain contusion during the 2015 playoffs that left him temporarily unable to speak.

Can there be parallels drawn between the 2016 Ducks and 2014 Sharks?

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) takes the puck up ice on a breakaway with San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, center, and Ducks center Nate Thompson, right, trailing on the play during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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The Anaheim Ducks might not have suffered a reverse sweep at the hands of one of their biggest rivals, but they seem to have reached a breaking point when it comes to playoff disappointments.

After firing head coach Bruce Boudreau, GM Bob Murray was highly critical of the team’s core, even noting that at this point he’s not a fan of long-term contracts. That was perhaps a swipe at how he feels Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf‘s eight-year $69 million and $66 million contracts have worked out thus far. Meanwhile Ryan Kesler‘s six-year deal worth roughly $41 million is about to begin.

After San Jose suffered its first round loss to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said they were now becoming a “tomorrow team” and they began a cultural shift that included Joe Thornton losing the captaincy.

There are differences of course between the two situations. One notable one is that the Sharks’ guard was already starting to change hands in 2013-14. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were entering their mid-30s, but Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture were on the rise. Anaheim’s core of Getzlaf and Perry is significantly younger, but while Anaheim also has some promising forwards like Jakob Silfverberg, that generation of players doesn’t seem ready to carry the torch for the Ducks.

“We don’t have a lot of young guys in the lineup. … Today’s a much different feeling leaving the rink,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said, per the Los Angeles Times. “In those [previous] years there’s been a sense of hope. Today, there’s zero feeling like that.”

Perhaps the Anaheim Ducks will find hope by watching the rest of the 2016 playoffs. If the San Jose Sharks continue to succeed, they will be an example of a team that once underachieved, hit a critical low, but then managed to fix that in a relatively short time without a massive turnover in terms of on-ice personnel. While we’re at it, you could make a similar argument for the Washington Capitals.

Maybe Murray will look to those franchises for inspiration as he moves forward.

Capitals, Penguins nearly perfect at stopping third period comebacks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) chase down the puck during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Pittsburgh only won by a single goal in Game 2 on Saturday and that deciding marker came with 4:28 minutes remaining in the third, but that contest had the potential to be far more one-sided.

The Capitals were outshot 28-10 through 40 minutes and were consequently leaning on goaltender Braden Holtby to keep things close.

“First two periods, I thought they were way better than us,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. Or has Justin Williams put it, the Capitals “were getting embarrassed out there” during the first 40 minutes.

Washington did rebound in the third period, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from evening this series at 1-1. That puts the pressure on Washington to take at least one game in Pittsburgh before the second round’s over.

Starting the game off strong is always going to be important, but that’s particularly true when talking about the Penguins and Capitals. Pittsburgh was 39-0-0 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes while Washington was 37-0-1. So far in the playoffs, both teams are 4-0-0 when they have the lead after two periods.