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 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trade speculation may have died down since it peaked at the draft in late June, but it’s not entirely dead.
The 23-year-old former first overall draft pick was asked to address the ongoing rumors Monday at an Oilers charity golf tournament.
“I try not to pay attention too much,” Nugent-Hopkins said, per the Edmonton Journal. “If it happens, it happens. I know it’s definitely a different group than the one we finished with last season.”
Indeed it is. Most notably, Taylor Hall is in New Jersey now, traded for defenseman Adam Larsson. The Oilers also signed Milan Lucic and drafted Jesse Puljujarvi.
What’s still lacking is an offensive defenseman who can run the power play, which is why the names Tyson Barrie (Avalanche) and Matt Dumba (Wild) have been floated as potential targets.
The Wild in particular could use a good, young center like Nugent-Hopkins, and the expansion draft is looming for a Minnesota club that already has defensemen Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Marco Scandella locked up in long-term contracts.
Barrie, meanwhile, has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday.
Blues d-man Kevin Shattenkirk is another name that’s come up; however, he can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, and whether he’d re-sign in Edmonton is in doubt.
Chalk up another arbitration hearing that won’t be required. This time it’s Brandon Manning‘s. The 26-year-old defenseman has agreed on a two-year, $1.95 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, according to CSN Philly.
Manning’s hearing was scheduled for next Tuesday. He was the last restricted free agent on the Flyers, after Brayden Schenn re-signed Monday.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the Manning signing.
Manning played 56 games for the Flyers in 2015-16, his first full season in the NHL. He had one goal and six assists while logging an average ice time of 16:32.
The Chicago Blackhawks are reportedly parting ways with defenseman David Rundblad. The two sides have agreed to a contract termination, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Rundblad, 25, was set to earn $1.1 million this season, per General Fanager. His cap hit was $1.05 million, meaning the ‘Hawks will gain $100,000 in cap space by not having to bury his contract in the AHL next season.
Rundblad was unlikely to make the Blackhawks in 2016-17 — not after the additions of Brian Campbell and Michal Kempny, and also the re-signing of Michal Rozsival.
It remains to be seen where Rundblad will end up. One possibility is back in Switzerland, where he spent part of last season before dressing three times for the ‘Hawks in the playoffs.
Darryl Sydor, after being let go by the Minnesota Wild, has joined the Chicago Wolves as an assistant coach.
The St. Louis Blues, the parent club of the AHL Wolves, made the announcement Monday. It was also announced that former NHLer Daniel Tkaczuk would join Sydor as an assistant on new head coach Craig Berube’s staff.
Sydor, who won two Stanley Cups as a defenseman, spent five years as an assistant on Mike Yeo’s staff in Minnesota. His time with the Wild was marred by an arrest in 2015 for drunk driving. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and sought treatment.
“I know now that alcoholism is a disease and I’m powerless over alcohol,” he told Kamloops This Week in January. “I can never have a drink again and I’m fine with that.”