Vancouver Canucks v Boston Bruins - Game Four

With two wins in Cup finals, Bruins gain something else: higher expectations

Going into this series, I found it hard to imagine how the Boston Bruins – a team that struggled to skate with a talented, but flawed Tampa Bay Lightning team – could possibly stick with the Vancouver Canucks. While my prediction of a 4-1 series win was my way of expressing my strong confidence in the Canucks rather than an insult to the Bruins’ prowess, it didn’t seem far off base.

Yet instead of the Bruins holding their breath after every shift, they’ve proved that they’re way beyond deserving to be on the same ice surface as the elite Canucks. With a 12-1 mark in wins and a narrow 4-2 margin in defeat, Vancouver’s honestly lucky that the series is notched up at 2-2.

That’s a big shock, but it’s clearly not an accident.

Bruins fans might have come into this series happy that their medium-hyped squad made it this far. It is the first time a Boston Bruins team made the Cup finals since 1990, after all. Yet with those two wins, the Bruins generated more than just pride and a legitimate chance at their first championship since the days when Bobby Orr had healthy knees and the hockey world at his feet; they’ve also raised the expectations of Boston fans, something Rich Levine captured in this column.

The Bruins are two wins away from the Stanley Cup, and the city’s on fire.

By now, the novelty of making it back to the Finals has worn off. After the events of the last two games, there’s no one who’s just “happy to be here.” When we look at the Bruins, they’re no longer a gang of scrappy guys trying like hell to catch a break and earn some respect. We see a team that’s more suited to win the title than any Bruins squad in the last 30 years.

They’re the real thing. They’re a championship team. We know it’s there.

Of course, with greater expectations come increased chances for deeper disappointments. The Bruins need to win two of their next three games to make Boston a true title town once again. If nothing else, they’ve shown they can fight with the best regular season team in the NHL and capture the attention of a spoiled sports market in the process.

PHT Morning Skate: Sharks name stray cat after captain Joe Pavelski

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–The stray cat that ran onto the ice prior to Game 1 between the Sharks and Preds has been named after Joe Pavelski. (Associated Press)

–Speaking of that black cat, here’s a mountain of pucks shaped like the cat. (The Score)

–When Lukas Head was younger, he played with Steven Stamkos and P.K. Subban. Here’s his story. (Toronto Star)

–Watch the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Stars and Blues. (Top)

–A look behind the scenes of the NHL draft lottery. (Canadian Press)

–Two-time Olympic gold medalist Sharon Szabados loves curing and the Oilers and she was forced to make a tough choice on Saturday. (Sportsnet)

Pascal Dupuis, who was named one of the Masterton Trophy finalists, is adjusting to retirement. (NHL.com)

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta