Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks - Game Seven

Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand take over first two periods, give Boston a 3-0 lead

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There were plenty of possible heroes going into Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. Some were obvious choices, such as goalies Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo or the Sedin twins. Others ranked as possible “no-name heroes.”

Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand might rank somewhere in between. Bergeron is far from anonymous among hockey diehards, but his mixture of solid scoring aptitude and heady two-way play probably won’t register as strongly with casual fans. Marchand wasn’t even supposed to be the best Bruins rookie (not when the team kept Tyler Seguin at the NHL level), yet he’s been the best rookie of the 2011 playoffs.

Both players were big reasons why the Bruins made it this far, but a lot of people will just remember them for their efforts tonight. They’re probably fine with that.

Boston 3, Vancouver 0 (end of second period)

Marchand made the first goal happen by sending a great pass Bergeron’s way, then he scored a wraparound goal in the second period. Some might look at that tally as a symbolic moment for embattled goalie Roberto Luongo since the puck went off of him after he seemingly made the save.

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The Canucks frequently put Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins in peril, sending 13 shots and plenty of great chances his way in the second period. That didn’t matter, though, as the Bruins goalies has stopped all 21 shots so far.

Vancouver drew the first penalty of the game when they were down 2-0 and better yet, Zdeno Chara was the man who went to the box. Many people will criticize Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault for opting against a timeout to take advantage of this opportunity, which was already looking bad when Vancouver was failing to keep the puck in the offensive zone.

A situation that was already disappointing turned downright toxic when Bergeron crashed his way to the Canucks net, seemingly creating an opportunity for a penalty shot. That penalty shot proved unnecessary, however, when it was clear that the puck slipped past Luongo in the first place. The NHL reviewed the goal briefly (possibly to see if it went off of Bergeron’s hand in an illegal way) before deciding that it stood as the 3-0 goal.

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Bergeron has two goals (one shorthanded) while Marchand scored a goal and assist, ranking them alongside Thomas as the Bruins’ Game 7 heroes through two periods.

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It’s hard not to wonder if the Canucks are already done. Thomas only allowed eight goals over the last six games, so why should we expect him to allow three in just 20 minutes? Vancouver needs only to focus on tying the game up – they can deal with tally No. 4 in overtime – but that’s obviously a tall order against a great goalie and some tough defensemen.

Join us for the third period (and maybe beyond) by taking part in the Game 7 Live Chat, which is going on right now.

Clutter-bucks: Isles sign energy guy to five-year, $17.5 million extension

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 03:  Cal Clutterbuck #15 of the New York Islanders scores his second goal of the game at 9:53 of the third period against the Dallas Stars at the Barclays Center on January 3, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  The Islanders defeated the Stars 6-5. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders made a splash on Friday, signing veteran forward Cal Clutterbuck to a five-year, $17.5 million extension — one that carries a $3.5 million average annual cap hit through 2023.

Clutterbuck, 29, has two goals and nine points through 25 games this year, while averaging 15:26 TOI per night (his highest average since joining the Isles four years ago). As per usual, he leads the club in hits — one of the staples of his game — and serves as one of the club’s alternate captains.

This new contract represents a nice raise for the former Minnesota Wild man. His last contract, set to expire in July, was of the four-year, $11 million variety, and carried a $2.75 million cap hit.

This contract also resembles the one GM Garth Snow gave another of the club’s role forwards. This summer, Casey Cizikas signed a five-year, $16.75 million extension — one with a $3.35 million hit — despite the fact he’d never scored more than 30 points in a season, or averaged more than 14 minutes of ice time.

This style of spending — along with splashes made for free agent disappointments Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd — is sure to raise some questions. The Isles opted not to spend that money on retaining two of their key players from a season ago, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo, and the club has struggled to find its form through the first quarter of this year.

Bettman: Salary cap could stay the same for next season

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 27:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman unveils the League's Centennial celebration plans for 2017 during a press conference at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 at Air Canada Centre on September 27, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Don’t expect a big jump in next season’s salary cap.

“We’re not going to give out any numbers now,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday, per Yahoo Sports. “The cap could range from where it is now to a couple or so million up, but we’re all going to have to focus on what makes the most sense moving forward.”

The salary cap only went up slightly for the current season, from $71.4 million to $73 million. The only slight increase was due to the lower Canadian dollar, which negatively impacted last season’s league revenues by “$100 or 200 million,” Bettman said earlier this year.

The loonie has been holding relatively steady for around half a year. It’s currently worth $0.76 USD and has been helped by the recent oil rally.

A flat salary cap would be bad news for big spenders like the Chicago Blackhawks, who still need to get Artemi Panarin signed to an extension. The Los Angeles Kings could also be forced to make some tough decisions, as they’ve got Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson in need of new deals. Ditto for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have key RFAs in Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, and Conor Sheary.

Related: Trades galore? McPhee expecting ‘a massive player redistribution before the expansion draft’

A few ‘bad decisions’ have been costing Lundqvist

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) reacts after giving up a goal to Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, in New York. The Penguins won 6-1. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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Henrik Lundqvist has set such a high bar that his 12-8-1 record with a .912 save percentage is cause for great concern these days in New York.

That his backup, Antti Raanta, is 6-1-0 with a .932 save percentage only contributes to that concern, because if Raanta can manage those numbers, what’s Lundqvist’s excuse?

“I feel like I’m tracking the puck well, moving well,” Lundqvist told the Daily News. “It just comes down to some bad decisions at times that cost me.”

Indeed, December has not started well for The King. He’s allowed 10 goals in three starts for a save percentage of .894. In Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Islanders, his decision to poke check a loose puck led to the winning goal by Andrew Ladd.

But while this month has been a struggle, it should be noted that Lundqvist was mostly excellent in November. He finished with a .925 save percentage, including that 40-save victory on Black Friday in Philadelphia.

Which is to say, he has more than earned the benefit of the doubt. Since 2008-09, Lundqvist has not finished a season with a save percentage below .920, and that is a remarkable achievement.

Raanta was solid again last night in Winnipeg, where the Rangers beat the Jets, 2-1. A starting goalie for tonight’s game in Chicago has not yet been announced, but Lundqvist is a good bet.

Top 10 career save percentages among goalies with at least 300 NHL starts

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Jets send talented rookie Connor to AHL

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23:  Goalie Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers pushes Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets  during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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Kyle Connor is on his way to the minors.

On Friday, Winnipeg announced that Connor — the former Michigan Wolverines star taken 17th overall in 2015 — has been assigned to the club’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.

Connor, 19, had just one goal and four points through 19 games this year, struggling to adjust to life at the professional level.

He’d been a healthy scratch for each of the Jets’ last six games and, prior to that, missed five games with an upper-body injury after getting nailed into the boards by L.A. forward Kyle Clifford.

The Jets are getting healthy up front, which further explains why Connor is on his way to the Moose. Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault both recently returned from injury.