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.
The Calgary Flames signed Finnish defenseman Jusso Valimaki to a three-year, entry-level contract on Friday.
Valimaki, 18, was the 16th overall pick of the 2017 NHL Draft. He was selected in that spot after a nice year with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, scoring 61 points in 60 regular-season games and then added an assist in four playoff contests. He also played for the Tri-City Americans in 2015-16, putting up 32 points in 56 games.
Apparently he’s capable of at least one nifty shootout move, too:
People are pondering how Valimaki may fit into the Flames at the end of a three-year window Johnny Gaudreau recently cited. That seems a little far-reaching, although this nugget makes you wonder if Calgary might want to drag a little extra value out of his rookie deal:
Interesting. Either way, the Flames locked up a future piece, whether he can make an NHL impact sooner or later.
It turns out that Tomas Tatar‘s days are numbered with the Detroit Red Wings by almost 1,500.*
After a salary arbitration hearing and concerns that he might leave after a single season, “Band-Aid” sort of deal, a wide variety of reporters state that the two sides instead agreed to a four-year deal with a $5.3 million cap hit, which would total $21.2 million.
Those figures come from MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan, FanRag’s Craig Morgan, and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. The Red Wings confirmed that it was four years, but didn’t mention the financial details in their release.
Here’s the reported yearly breakdown (cue ominous music for that lockout-protection drop in 2020-21), via Morgan:
Again, this feels like a change in viewpoint, as even just yesterday it was reasonable to wonder if Tatar would only stick around for 2017-18. Now, it is possible that Tatar might get traded at some point, but a four-year deal is a bit surprising. The forward himself speculated that a one-year deal would be it.
This contract makes Tatar, 26, the Red Wings’ second-most expensive forward from a cap perspective, trailing only Henrik Zetteberg’s $6.083 million.
Even with this deal out of the way, Red Wings GM Ken Holland still has some work to do, including re-signing speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou. And the situation is tight.
* – Four times 365 is 1,460. Get it?
The good news is that Tommy Wingels is expected to be ready for Chicago Blackhawks training camp. The bad news is that he’ll be limited in his training regimen … although that very regimen caused him issues in the first place.
Dr. Michael Terry, the Blackhawks’ team doctor, released the following update regarding Wingels:
“Tommy Wingels sustained a left foot fracture during his off-season training. We anticipate a full recovery in six to eight weeks and in time for training camp. We do not anticipate any long-term issues.”
It’s unclear what caused the specific injury. Dropped weight? Unlucky fall? Perhaps a stress fracture? Without knowing the exact issue, it’s tempting to picture various painful scenarios.
(Probably because we’re in the dog days of the hockey summer, too.)
Wingels, 29, is on a one-year deal with Chicago, carrying a $750K salary and cap hit. He last played for the Ottawa Senators, though Blackhawks fans are most likely to remember him from his lengthy stay with the San Jose Sharks.
Six-to-eight weeks seems like it wouldn’t give a ton of room for error, so we’ll see if he’ll actually be ready for training camp.
Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, potentially the NHL’s first overall draft pick in 2018, will suit up for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan.
Dahlin, who doesn’t turn 18 until April, has wowed scouts with his skating and puck-moving ability. At the 2017 World Juniors, he participated as a 16-year-old, garnering tantalizing reviews in the process.
Top-10 picks in the 2017 draft, Elias Pettersson (5th, Vancouver Canucks) and Lias Andersson (7th, New York Rangers), will also be in Plymouth representing Sweden.
Click here for Sweden’s and Finland’s Summer Showcase rosters. The tournament runs from July 29 – Aug. 5 and also features players from the United States and Canada.
Among the draft-eligible Finns to watch is 17-year-old forward Jesse Ylonen, who could be a late first-rounder in 2018.
Related: USA Hockey invites 42 players to World Junior Summer Showcase