Vancouver Canucks v Boston Bruins - Game Four

Five things to look out for in Game 6

The Stanley Cup is in the house and while the Canucks are doing all that they can to not be distracted by its glorious silver shine, the Bruins know they’ve got a job to do tonight to try and force a Game 7 Wednesday night in Vancouver. While a lot of the senseless talk has subsided and the taunting has gone away, there are actually some hockey-related things to look out for tonight in Game 6. Stunning, right? Here’s a few things to keep your eyes peeled for at TD Garden in Boston.

1. Get the first goal, win the game

That’s just how it’s gone in this series. Whoever has scored first has gone on to win as the one goal edge was enough to either carry the Canucks to victory or spur Boston on to deliver a beat down. Of course, scoring first has also coincided with home ice so there’s that as well. Boston’s played great when getting the lead in this series and throughout the playoffs they’ve been virtually unbeatable going 10-1 after scoring first. Vancouver meanwhile has been 11-2 after scoring first. A Vancouver goal first would sap the energy out of the building while a Bruins goal first would blow the roof off. It’s imperative to both teams to get out to the lead first.

2. How pumped will Roberto Luongo be?

After all the recent bluster made of Roberto Luongo’s comments on how he and Tim Thomas differ in how they play goal, there’s going to be especially strong focus placed on how Luongo plays tonight. After all, his two least memorable performances in the playoffs came in Games 3 and 4 in Boston in the finals. Vancouver could stand to see the Luongo’s who’s showed up in every game at Rogers Arena tonight in Boston. Back in Vancouver, Luongo’s been nothing short of brilliant and a brilliant performance tonight, one that sees him outduel Tim Thomas in goal could not only see him win Vancouver the Stanley Cup and shake off that pesky “choker” label, but also see him take home the Conn Smythe Trophy as well. If the bad Luongo shows up, not only will Thomas not “pump his tires” we’ll all be too busy throwing him under the bus to notice he’s gone flat.

3. Comeback of the Bruins offense

The Bruins played a less-than stellar Game 5 in Vancouver and got less than nothing out of their forward scoring units. The top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Rich Peverley after looking so strong in Game 4 was virtually invisible in Game 5. Don’t expect this line to be quiet tonight as they’ll get the matchups they’re looking for thanks to having the last change. If the Bruins can’t get that line going tonight, look for things to get a slight shakeup and for Michael Ryder to again get swapped in and out with Peverley to see if they can get things firing offensively. If that can’t get the offense going, it might be tough sledding for the Bruins tonight.

4. Can Vancouver stay physical and smart

The Canucks came out and pounded the Bruins physically in Game 5 and put the pressure on Boston to be perfect with their passes and puck handling. That all didn’t work out too well for Boston and they wilted as the game wore on and the Canucks found ways to keep the pressure up. Boston gets their opportunity to turn those tables tonight and given how turnover prone the Canucks were during Games 3 and 4, they’d be wise to keep it up. If Vancouver figured out how to attack the Bruins in Game 5 and how to be physical and smart with them, the Bruins will be in for quite the fight tonight.

5. Not-so special teams for everyone

Both teams’ power plays stink. Flat out, they’ve been bad. While a lot of credit is due to the penalty kill units for both teams, much of the fault comes from the ineptitude of both teams’ power play units inability to adjust on the fly. The Bruins problems through the playoffs are well documented and the Canucks issues have come against Boston. While Vancouver’s power play looked improved in Game 5, they’ll have to build on that tonight in Game 6 if they want to steal an advantage from the hometown Bruins. Boston, meanwhile, will look to have their shorthanded units stay lively and try to turn the game around on Vancouver. They were able to score twice shorthanded in Game 3 and they’ve been able to do that throughout the playoffs as well. If they can’t do it with the man advantage, they’ll try to turn the tables when on the kill. Either way, if either of these teams can generate offense with the man advantage, they’re probably leaving Game 6 victorious.

After ‘rough year,’ Kronwall seeking options for ailing knee

Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) is tripped up by Detroit Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall (55), of Sweden, during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Detroit. The Red Wings defeated the Jets 3-2. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
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Coming off one of the worst seasons in an otherwise solid — and lengthy — career, Detroit d-man Niklas Kronwall is already looking to ensure the knee issues that plagued him won’t continue on into 2016-17.

Kronwall is “getting opinions” about how to fix the knee, Wings GM Ken Holland told the Detroit Free Press. The injury limited the Swedish rearguard to just 64 games played — and those 64 games were largely played with Kronwall not close to 100 percent.

More, from the Free Press:

At 35, Kronwall is showing the wear and tear of being, at his best, a hard-hitting workhorse defenseman. Productionwise, he had the lowest numbers of his career since 2006-07, scoring just three goals and finishing with just 26 points in 64 games. (Even during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, he had five goals and 29 points in 48 games.) His minus-21 was eye-popping.

“It’s been a rough year in a lot of ways,” Kronwall said. “Definitely, a summer of good training is the first thing that you need, and the rest of it will play out as you go along.”

The Wings will be hopeful Kronwall can return to form.

He’s still got plenty of time left on his current deal — three more years, at a $4.75M cap hit — and is still considered a key part to the Red Wings defense, which wasn’t great this year and doesn’t project to be a heckua lot better next year.

If Kronwall can’t get back to form, it could push Holland even harder to make a trade to beef up the blueline.

Halak practices fully, hoping to be back soon

Jaroslav Halak
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Jaroslav Halak took a major step in his return from a groin injury on Monday, participating in a full practice with his Islander teammates ahead of tomorrow’s Game 3 against the Lightning.

“He’s progressing,” head coach Jack Capuano said, per the Isles’ website. “I don’t know how far or where he is or when he could play, but I know that having him on the ice going through a full practice, but again it’s about conditioning and timing with goaltenders and their movement, but he’s progressing and it’s great to see.

“I don’t have a timetable yet though.”

Halak hasn’t played in nearly two months — he suffered his groin injury on Mar. 8. His initial timetable for return was 6-8 weeks, and Tuesday will mark his eighth week out of action.

It seems highly unlikely Halak will be an option — at least in terms of starting — anytime soon. He told the Isles’ site the lengthy layoff means it now feels “like the beginning of the season for me,” and Thomas Greiss has performed well through the playoffs thus far, posting a .937 save percentage and 2.06 GAA.

If anything, Halak’s goal could be to get in good enough shape to serve as Greiss’ backup at some point. J.F. Berube has filled that role during the postseason, but has yet to see any action.

Prior to getting hurt, Halak was New York’s No. 1 netminder and played reasonably well, posting a .919 save percentage and 2.30 GAA in 36 starts.

Martin Jones is making Doug Wilson look pretty smart

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 01:  Martin Jones #31 and Tomas Hertl #48 of the San Jose Sharks blocks the shot of Colton Sissons #10 of the Nashville Predators in Game Two of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. at SAP Center on May 1, 2016 in San Jose, California. The Sharks won the game 3-2. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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The thing about rolling the dice on an unproven goalie is that you can look really foolish if it doesn’t work out.

That’s the risk Doug Wilson took when he bet on Martin Jones. Fortunately for the Sharks’ general manager, it’s looking like a great wager these days.

Seven games into the playoffs and Jones is 6-1 with a .923 save percentage. The 26-year-old has been especially good against the Predators. He was named first star in Game 2, a 3-2 San Jose victory that gave the Sharks a 2-0 series lead.

Jones, you’ll recall, was acquired in an offseason trade with the Bruins. The Sharks gave up a first-round draft pick and a prospect to get their man, whom they immediately signed to a three-year, $9 million contract.

At the time, Jones had only started 29 games in the NHL. He was slated to battle Alex Stalock — another relatively inexperienced guy — for the starting job in San Jose.

“I think I’m ready to definitely take that step and play more hockey games,” Jones said. “I had a great two years in L.A. learning from Jonathan Quick. It’s been a big couple of years in my development and I’m looking forward to the new challenge.”

Make no mistake, it was a big risk for Wilson to bet on such an inexperienced tandem. If the Sharks had missed the playoffs again this year, who knows what would’ve happened in San Jose?

But while goaltending remains arguably the most important position in hockey, recent history shows it doesn’t take an experienced, big-money netminder to win. Quick had a $1.8 million cap hit when he won his first Stanley Cup with the Kings. Corey Crawford‘s cap hit was just under $3 million when he won his first Cup with the Blackhawks, who had Antti Niemi and his sub-$1 million salary in goal when they won in 2010.

Quick and Crawford have both signed big deals since. But the temptation for frugality remains, thanks to a seemingly endless supply of quality netminders. After all, the more cap space a team can save on its goalies, the more it can spend on its skaters.

The key, obviously, is picking the right horse. Choose poorly and it can be a disaster. That’s why some GMs will opt to pay a premium for experience. Track records can be comforting. Youngsters, on the other hand, can buckle under the weight of expectations.

So far, Jones has handled the postseason pressure like a veteran, and he’s a big reason why the Sharks are two wins from reaching the Western Conference Final.

Seguin resumes skating in Dallas, Ruff notes ‘they have flights into St. Louis every day’

Dallas Stars' Tyler Seguin makes a pass during the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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The latest on Tyler Seguin (and fellow injured Stars forward Patrick Eaves), per the Dallas Morning-News:

Q: On the statuses of Patrick Eaves (leg) and Tyler Seguin (Achilles)

Lindy Ruff: “Both skated today, both progressing.”

Q: On if Seguin and Eaves will travel with the team to St. Louis for Game 3

LR: “No, but they have flights into St. Louis every day.”

Seguin, as you’ve probably heard, hasn’t played since a Game 2 win over Minnesota in the opening round.

That was on Apr. 16.

Dallas’ All-Star center returned from a partially lacerated Achilles to participate in said Game 2, a nasty injury that cost him the final 10 games of the regular season and the series opener against the Wild.

The Stars say this latest injury has nothing to do with the previous one, but reporters haven’t been privy to much information beyond that.

In speaking last week, Ruff didn’t even want to put a timetable on Seguin’s return, for fear of what an inaccurate timetable might cause.

“I really can’t,” Ruff said. “I don’t even have a guesstimate on it. I don’t even think it’d be fair. If I guessed and if I’m off, everybody else will be wondering why did he guess that?”

GM Jim Nill did say the club expected Seguin to miss the first two games of the Blues series and, as of last Thursday, confirmed Seguin wasn’t skating.

“He’s day-to-day,” Nill explained. “Once he gets on the ice, it’s probably four to five days from there.”

This series, currently tied 1-1, will resume on Tuesday from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.