Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five

Five Thoughts: Apparently home ice is that important

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Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals provided fans without a rooting interest in who wins just about everything they could hope for in these finals. A physical game loaded with scoring chances paired up with great goaltending and an exciting finish is about all you can hope for out of a Stanley Cup finals. The histrionics were kept to a minimum and the players just shut up and played. Perfect, right? We can only hope the trend continues.

1. Some readers who commented on our last Five Thoughts column found it silly that something as simple as getting last change could make all the difference in the world in how things broke down in this series. Getting home ice isn’t just about having the fans rallying around you and trying to raise the volume level high enough to make everyone deaf, it’s about giving coaches the chance to get the right matchups they want and it’s proving to make a huge difference here.

You noticed Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin a lot more last night because coach Alain Vigneault was able to get them away from the Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg pairing. Sure they didn’t score any points again but they created chances and got the cycle going against guys like Tomas Kaberle and Johnny Boychuk as well as Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid. That’s no accident. Claude Julien did his best to get his matchups right but just couldn’t do it consistently.

Then again, Maxim Lapierre was able to score the game’s only goal against Seidenberg and Chara. Hockey’s a funny game that way.

2. We’re sure that Boston fans are going to be good and lathered up still over what Roberto Luongo had to say last night when he told the media that he would’ve made the stop on Lapierre’s goal because he doesn’t wander from the crease the way Thomas does. Bruins fans will yell about how Luongo has no class in victory and they’re more than welcome to that opinion of him. Let’s just hope they remember that the next time we see something like Brad Marchand comically “wiping his hands” after getting involved with half of the Canucks on the ice in Game 4.

Fans in seek of moral high ground on either side of these Stanley Cup finals are going to find themselves coming up very empty. There’s a lot to dislike about both of these teams but coming up with ways to get yourself even more worked up about things is a self-defeating process. Enjoy the wins, get bummed about the losses but getting caught up in how the players are acting out at each other isn’t going to save your sanity. Let them handle it… They are professionals after all.

3. Claude Julien’s insistence on putting Gregory Campbell on the power play over Tyler Seguin is one of the more baffling choices he’s made in these playoffs. Campbell is a penalty killer and a grinder normally and while Julien insisted that Campbell’s job out there on the power play was to help screen Luongo and tip shots in front he did neither of these things. No one on the Bruins had any sort of net presence at all in fact as Luongo’s night was made easier thanks to not having to deal with any traffic.

Seguin is a purely offensive player at this point in his career and not giving him the few extra minutes in an opportunity made for offense is just stunning. Boston, of course, went 0-4 on the power play including going 0-3 in the first period alone. The Bruins power play hasn’t been anything to write home about at all in the playoffs but it’s choices like this that help it fail.

4. One thing we didn’t see out of Vancouver last night was shoddy defensive play and turnovers from their blue line corps. What that means to us is that we’re probably done seeing Keith Ballard as a Vancouver Canuck in this series and perhaps for good. With Vigneault opting for Chris Tanev over Ballard and Tanev playing a solid Game 5 paired up with Andrew Alberts we’d be stunned to see Ballard again in this series , barring injury of course.

Ballard makes $4.2 million against the salary cap through 2014-2015 and if he’s being utilized as Vancouver’s 7th or 8th defenseman now it’s impossible to see him sticking around after this season. He’s a good player but he’s struggled in Vigneault’s system and his shoddy play in Game 4 will keep him in the press box the rest of the way. The Canucks would be better off with Ballard if he was fitting in as he can be a solid guy, but with how his mental shape has to be and how his confidence has to be shot it’s hard to see him sticking around in Vancouver now.

5. The Canucks have now scored just six goals in this series and they’re one win away from the Stanley Cup. That’s a stunning lack of offense but it proves what it takes for them to win: Keep it tight. Two 1-0 wins in Game 1 and Game 5 as well as a 3-2 overtime win in Game 2. The fact Boston has outscored them so badly in the finals (14-6) makes things look really lopsided but the Canucks are doing the things they need to win. Piling up goals in lopsided games help make things look far different, but the Canucks are a team that’s adjusted all playoffs long to do just what they have to to get by. Whether or not they make the adjustments needed to win in Boston and take home their first Stanley Cup on the road in Game 6 will prove to be their biggest test to date. If they can keep the Bruins uncomfortable at home, they’ll prove to be a champion.

Just 13 days after claiming him, Ducks waive Etem

Anaheim Ducks v Chicago Blackhawks
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Emerson Etem‘s second go-round in Anaheim has hit a snag.

On Wednesday, the Ducks put Etem on waivers — per TSN — a move that comes less than two weeks after Anaheim plucked him off the wire from Vancouver.

Etem, 24, has only appeared in two games for the Ducks since re-joining the team. He played just over six minutes in a loss to the Devils, and 5:38 in a win over the Flyers.

Taken 29th overall by Anaheim at the 2010 draft, Etem began his pro career with the Ducks organization, and score 31 points in 112 games before getting dealt to the Rangers in 2015.

He failed to make an impact with the Blueshirts, and was dealt to Vancouver after just 19 games under Alain Vigneault. Though he showed flashes in his first season with the Canucks — scoring seven goals and 12 points in 39 games — he looked flat in training camp and preseason this year, and was waived prior to the start of the regular season.

Given he’s pretty fast, a former first-round pick and blessed with some offensive pedigree, there’s a chance Etem could be claimed again. If not, the plan is (presumably) to send him to AHL San Diego.

Capitals hit the road, hoping to ‘really lock down an identity’

DENVER, CO - APRIL 01:  Head coach Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals talks to Evgeny Kuznetsov #92 of the Washington Capitals as they prepare to face the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on April 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Capitals defeated the Avalanche 4-2.
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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) The simple thing the Washington Capitals want to get out of their four-game Western Canadian road trip doesn’t tell the whole story.

Player after player said the Capitals are looking for a perfect eight points out of games at the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets. More specifically the defending Presidents’ Trophy winners want to develop more consistency all over the ice.

Washington’s 3-1-1 record through five games is nothing to shake a stick at, but they’ve had second-period lulls, defensive breakdowns and poor special teams play.

“At times we’re playing really great hockey and the way we want, and then the other times I think mentally we just kind of take a step back or try to do a little too much or think the game’s going to come easier,” right winger T.J. Oshie said Tuesday. “As long as we keep our foot on the gas, play a little bit more consistent game, a faster game, I think we’re going to be doing pretty good.”

Coach Barry Trotz shook up his top lines after a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday, putting Andre Burakovsky on right wing with captain Alex Ovechkin and all-star center Evgeny Kuznetsov and moving Oshie down to play with Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom. He kept the power-play units the same despite a 2 for 16 success rate that ranks the Capitals 22nd in the NHL going into Tuesday.

Trotz believes the power play and the penalty kill, which at 71.4 percent is 26th in the league, will get it together. But he’d like to see a more even game in all situations.

“It can be faceoffs, it can be wall plays, it can be just our structure though the neutral zone,” Trotz said. “We want to know what you’re going to get every day so that we can really lock down an identity so everybody knows exactly what they’re up against every night and how we play and there’s not a lot of deviation from it. With that, you get a lot of order and with that order you’re going to get some production.

“When you don’t have everybody on the same page, you’re not going to be that good.”

Trotz wants the Capitals to be a 60-minute team, and those middle 20 minutes have been a source of some frustration. Washington has been outscored 6-2 in the second period, a puzzling problem to say the least.

“For some reason we haven’t played as well as we have in the first and third periods,” Johansson said. “If we knew (why), it would make it a lot easier. We just have to play a full 60 minutes hard.”

The four-game trip starts with a major test Wednesday against 19-year-old superstar Connor McDavid and the Oilers. This will be the first time the Capitals face McDavid, who missed much of last season with a broken collarbone but is on top of his game, tied for the league lead in scoring with nine points.

Capitals players know how good McDavid can be but are wary of his high-skilled unpredictability that defenseman Matt Niskanen joked “hasn’t been coached out” of him yet.

“It’s always tough to know what he’s going to do because he’s so fast,” said Burakovsky, who played with McDavid on the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters. “He likes to just skate around you with the puck.”

The Oilers are so far one of the best teams in hockey because of McDavid and linemates Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle. Washington had been one of the best defensive teams before the loss to the Rangers, so stopping McDavid and company will be a tall task.

“They’ve got a combination of skills on that line,” Niskanen said. “It’ll be a good challenge for us. It’s for sure going to be a different Oilers team than it’s been in the last couple years.”


‘It’s going to be a grind’ for the Canucks, who can’t play like they used to

Ottawa Senators center Derick Brassard (19) celebrates teammate Ryan Dzingel's goal as Vancouver Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa (5) looks on during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016 in Vancouver, British Columbia.  (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Watching the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night, it seemed like a hundred years ago that they led the NHL in scoring.

The Canucks were shut out, 3-0, by the Ottawa Senators at Rogers Arena. The home side failed to generate much of anything offensively, finishing with just 22 shots against one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

Afterwards, Vancouver’s captain — the Art Ross Trophy winner in 2009-10 — shared the stark reality about how his team has to play now.

“You’re not going to see anyone, I believe, have a career year offensively,” said Henrik Sedin. “It’s going to be tight, it’s going to be a grind. When we get the chances, we’re going to need to score.”

The plan is to keep games close, by whatever means possible. The Canucks won their first four, two of them in overtime and one in the shootout. But they’ve since dropped three straight, and they now rank dead last in league scoring.

Granted, the Canucks were playing their seventh game in 11 days. They didn’t start their regular season until Oct. 15, and they haven’t had two consecutive days off since.

“We weren’t quick enough in our decisions,” said Sedin, “and that might be part of the fatigue, too, where your brain isn’t working as fast it should.”

But that excuse won’t fly after their next game. The Canucks will have two days to rest and practice before Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers pay a visit Friday.

“That’s a team we have to play tight against,” said Sedin.

Just like every other team, apparently.

Canucks goals per game

2009-10: 3.27 (2nd)
2010-11: 3.15 (1st)
2011-12: 2.94 (5th)
2012-13: 2.54 (19th)
2013-14: 2.33 (28th)
2014-15: 2.88 (8th)
2015-16: 2.27 (29th)
2016-17: 2.00 (30th) 

Losers of five straight, Coyotes off to worst start in franchise history

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - JULY 08:  (L-R) Head coach Dave Tippett and Assistant General Manager/Analytics John Chayka of the Arizona Coyotes watch the prospect development camp at the Ice Den on July 8, 2015 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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There was a fair bit of excitement in Arizona at the start of the year, when the Coyotes announced four prized prospects — Jakob Chychrun, Dylan Strome, Lawson Crouse and Christian Dvorak — had made the opening night roster.

Well, that sure feels like a long time ago.

The Coyotes lost their fifth straight game on Tuesday night — a 5-3 defeat in New Jersey — and are now off to the worst start in franchise history, having earned just two points through their first six games.

“We’ve dug ourselves a hole,” head coach Dave Tippett said, per the Arizona Republic. “We recognize that, but the only way you can get out of it is to work through it. The whole group has to work through it.”

It’s tough to pinpoint one specific thing that’s caused the poor start.

The schedule has done no favors — after opening with a win at home over the Flyers, Arizona’s been on a really tough trip through Ottawa, Montreal, Brooklyn, MSG, New Jersey and, on Thursday, Philadelphia.

Goaltending has been a major issue, as Louis Domingue and Justin Peters have failed to provide consistent play since No. 1 Mike Smith went down with injury. Domingue is a ghastly 0-4-0 with a .851 save percentage and 5.03 GAA and, last night, Peters got the start but failed to make much of an impact, allowing four goals on 34 shots.

There’s more, too.

Two of the club’s brightest stars, Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, have struggled mightily to start the campaign. Domi is goalless through six games with just three points, and Duclair’s been even worse — no goals, no assists, no points and just seven shots on goal.

He’s seen his ice time fall as a result, and finished with just 13:40 last night at Prudential.

As mentioned above, Arizona also has several youngsters learning on the job — and playing prominent roles. Chychrun, one of the youngest blueliners in the league at 18, is averaging over 16 minutes per night, and the club’s best forward thus far might be Jordan Martinook, the sophomore winger with five points through six games.

If there is a silver lining here, it’s that the Coyotes go home soon.

They’ll wrap their six-game road swing in Philly, then head back to Arizona for a three-game home set against the Avs, Sharks and Predators.