Vancouver’s loss is the NHL and hockey fans’ gain

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As strange, stunning and memorable as Patrick Kane’s overtime Stanley Cup-clinching goal was last year, there were at least a handful of hockey fans who were sad when it happens. That group wasn’t exclusively made up of Philadelphia Flyers fans, either; many of us simply wanted to see a Game 7 in a series that was quite a bit closer (and a lot more fun) than expected.

My bet is that you’ll see some variation of the statement “Simply put, there’s nothing like a Game 7” approximately 1,000 times if you read enough about Wednesday’s contest. As maddening as cliches can be sometimes, it’s true that Game 7’s tend to be the most fun, even if the games don’t always live up to our wild hockey expectations.

Yet when you think about the 2011 NHL playoffs, it would only be fitting if tomorrow’s game ends up being unpredictable and thoroughly entertaining. From an unbelievable first round to a strange second one and some great conference finals contests, hockey fans have often been spoiled by this lengthy postseason. Every single round of the postseason featured at least one series that went a full seven games; it makes you wonder how the 2012 playoffs will top this. (Hopefully this isn’t a sign that Mayans were correct that we simply won’t see another postseason, right?)

One almost wonders if there is a small part of every Canucks fan – probably located far, far from their damaged hearts – that is half-glad this happened. Obviously, they don’t want their team to lose, but it extends the party and the speculation and the excitement for two days. It also gives them one more home game to latch onto before the long wait begins for October.

With the NBA finals further in the rear view mirror and little else but baseball to distract casual fans, this should be one of hockey’s great chances to captivate the sporting public. Who knows what kind of “product” the two teams will churn out. It could be a carbon copy of the other skin-tight games played in Vancouver or the pressure/randomness of a Game 7 could dictate a blowout for either side.

The biggest hope is that the teams decide it, rather than the officials or some other outside factor. Despite the Canucks’ unexpected belly-flopping in Boston, both teams fought hard to get this far and each team is worthy of the Stanley Cup.

Hockey fans – from casuals to diehards – are worthy of a great final game, too. Stick with us as we try to stoke the flames of what should be a fascinating Game 7.

Lundqvist will start four of five remaining games

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Henrik Lundqvist has had two tough starts since returning from injury.

The 35-year-old allowed five goals in his first game back, a 6-3 loss to Anaheim Sunday, and five more in his second game, a 5-4 OT loss to San Jose Tuesday.

But Lundqvist is still the No. 1 in New York, and for that reason he’s scheduled to start four of the Rangers’ five remaining regular-season games, with the hope he’ll be able to play his way back into form in time for the postseason.

Lundqvist was not happy after Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks, even though the point the Rangers gained earned them a playoff berth.

“I’m extremely disappointed right now,” he told reporters. “I’m glad we’re in, but I want to get the job done. I want the win. We found a way to lose this one at the end.”

With the loss, Lundqvist’s save percentage fell to .911 on the season. If it finishes at that number, it would be the lowest save percentage of his NHL career.

Antti Raanta‘s save percentage, meanwhile, sits at .922. In his last start, he shut out the Kings in Los Angeles.

The Rangers host Pittsburgh tomorrow and Philadelphia Sunday. Next week, they’re in Washington Wednesday, Ottawa Saturday, and then they close out their schedule at home to Pittsburgh Sunday.

Raanta will start one of the final two games.

The Rangers are likely to face Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs.

Reinhart suggests benching him for an entire game might’ve been a stretch

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Two days after Sam Reinhart was bolted to the pine for the entirety of Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to Columbus — his punishment for showing up late to a team stretch — Reinhart discussed the incident, and didn’t sound overly thrilled about how it played out.

“It’s a coach’s decision. It’s a management decision,” Reinhart said, per the Buffalo News. “From my perspective, I would have rather battled it out with my teammates.

“I don’t think five minutes in the morning is going to influence my preparation for a game, but it was a team stretch and I should have been there on time.”

Reinhart also had this to say:

Discipline of this nature is pretty common, though the way Reinhart’s played out was a bit more dramatic. Rather than park him in the press box as a healthy scratch, the Sabres — who didn’t have an extra forward, as Kyle Okposo was out sick — dressed the 21-year-old, then sat him for the entire 60 minutes.

The Buffalo News said the move “would seem to send a deeper message than merely being scratch,” adding that “there has been friction between players and [Sabres head coach Dan] Bylsma throughout the season.”

In the club’s defense, Reinhart is hardly the first young player to be punished for lateness. Nikita Zadorov had repeated issues with punctuality and, after being suspended, was eventually traded to Colorado. Evander Kane was parked for a game last season after sleeping in and missing a practice.

Of course, each situation is unique and some will argue showing up five minutes late for a stretch isn’t on par with what Zadorov and Kane did. Which is fair. That could be why Bylsma said the club might consider a policy change.

And that could by why Reinhart’s teammate, Jack Eichel, tried to put things in perspective.

“We’re obviously not going to hold it over his head here,” Eichel said, per the News. “He didn’t really do too much wrong.”

North Dakota’s Poolman turns pro, signs with Jets

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Another day, another North Dakota departure.

Having already lost freshman Tyson Jost (signed with Colorado) and sophomore Brock Boeser (signed with Vancouver), the school has now learned that junior blueliner Tucker Poolman has signed an entry-level deal with the Jets.

Poolman, 23, was taken by Winnipeg in the fifth round (127th overall) at the ’13 draft. From the Free Press:

UND’s top defenceman was playing between 25 and 30 minutes per game and was the fourth-highest scoring blue-liner in the NCHC. He finished the season with seven goals, 30 points, 14 penalty minutes and a plus-18 rating in 38 games.

Poolman’s final campaign ended on a sour note. He suffered a shoulder injury during the NCHC championship game and was unable to play in North Dakota’s season-ending loss to Boston University in the NCAA championships.

Coming to America: Jackets assign Carlsson to Cleveland

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His Swedish season over, defenseman Gabriel Carlsson is coming to North America to play some hockey.

The Columbus Blue Jackets announced today that Carlsson, the 29th overall pick in the 2015 draft, has been assigned to AHL Cleveland.

From the press release:

Carlsson, 20, recently completed his second full season with Linköping HC in the Swedish Hockey League where he collected two goals and two assists for four points with six penalty minutes and a +8 plus/minus rating in 40 games.

Linköping was eliminated from the SHL playoffs on Tuesday.

Carlsson is listed at 6-4 and 191 pounds.