The waiting is over and it’s the day of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Tonight in Vancouver, heroes will be made and hearts will be broken. Champagne will be poured and tears of joy and sadness will both be shed. Tonight’s Game 7 obviously comes with tons of possibilities for how things will shake out, but there’s one match-up in particular that we’ll be drawn to watching tonight because it’s very likely that how both sides handle things will decide who gets to skate around with the Stanley Cup.
With Vancouver being at home and getting last change, the chances that we’ll see the Bruins be able to get their top defensive pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg out against the line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and Alex Burrows are minimal. While those two will still get their time against them when coach Claude Julien can work things with a quick line change, we’re more than likely going to see the pairing of Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk get the opportunity to be stoppers against the Sedin line.
While the Sedins haven’t had tremendous good fortune in getting points during the finals (Daniel has a goal and three assists while Henrik has just one goal) the bulk of their great scoring chances have come at home as coach Alain Vigneault has been able to get them out on the ice away from the top pair of Chara and Seidenberg. Daniel played huge in Game 2 along with Alex Burrows as those two conspired together to virtually beat the Bruins on their own as Burrows scored two goals and assisted on Daniel’s goal.
The kinds of play we’ve seen from the Sedins at home is more what we’re accustomed to from them. They’ve been able to establish their cycle, create chances offensively, and sustain pressure in Boston’s end. That kind of play will be needed tonight and while Tim Thomas has been brilliant all series and more than likely headed towards a Conn Smythe Trophy award win or lose tonight, that sort of pressure can break any goalie. So far in the finals we’ve yet to see Thomas have a bad game at all.
We’re not saying he’s due for one, mind you, but after his shaky play against Tampa Bay that saw him twice give up five goals in Florida getting the right match-ups against the top offensive talent is a big deal and it’s one of the reasons why this series has played out the way it has. Tonight, those defensive pairings and how they’re utilized will make all the difference between who goes home smiling and who goes home crying.
The Oilers blew a pair of two-goal leads in last night’s 6-5 loss to the Flyers and, not surprisingly, head coach Todd McLellan wasn’t happy with a number of performances.
“If you score five, you should be able to win,” McLellan said on Friday, per the Oilers’ Twitter account. “There were some individuals who were red-rotten.”
It’s not hard to speculate who McLellan was referring to.
Defenseman Oscar Klefbom scored his fourth goal of the year, but was on the ice for five of Philly’s six goals, and finished minus-4. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was minus-3 with three giveaways, and went scoreless.
McLellan was also displeased with his club’s lack of discipline.
“One of the things we didn’t want to do was put them on the power play, and we put them on the power play continually,” he said following the game, per NHL.com. “Whether they score or not — I thought our penalty-killers did a tremendous job, [but the Flyers] gain a lot of momentum and energy and belief off of that.”
Rookie Jesse Puljujarvi took a hooking and holding penalty in a 10-minute span in the first period. The Flyers were unable to capitalize on either power play opportunity, but did seem to generate some energy — as McLellan alluded to — and Puljujarvi was a virtual non-factor for the remainder of the night, finishing with just 7:51 TOI.
The Oilers are back in action tonight in Minnesota, and are still atop the Pacific Division, so there’s hardly a feeling of panic. That said, they have surrendered 10 goals in their last two games.
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For the third time this season, the Los Angeles Kings got a bunch of days off, then played like “horse(bleep).”
That was the conclusion their coach, Darryl Sutter, reached after last night’s 3-1 loss to Carolina at Staples Center. The Kings hadn’t played since Sunday, and Sutter didn’t think his players used their time off too wisely.
The transcript of Sutter’s post-game press conference, via L.A. Kings Insider:
… it’s disappointing because it’s the third time this year we’ve had three days between games, and that first game after the three days we’ve been, for lack of a better word, [road apples]. Go back to Philly-Minnesota, San Jose the last time they played in here, and this one here. Our top guys were not very efficient out there maximizing what their God gave ‘em. [Reporter: Is that because they’re taking things for granted, you think?] No, I don’t think that’s the right word. I think the word would be ‘using the time properly to prepare to be a great competitor.’
The Kings’ record fell to 13-11-2 with the loss. They’re currently fifth in the Pacific Division, though at least they have games in hand on the leaders from Alberta:
Of course, nobody has to tell Kings fans that the postseason is no guarantee. Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup in 2014, then missed the playoffs in 2015.
This season, if the Oilers are for real and the Flames can maintain their recent momentum, it’s going to be a real dogfight for the top three spots in the division. Even the Canucks, who’ve earned points in nine of their last 14, aren’t out of it yet.
The Kings’ next game is tomorrow at home to Ottawa.
Montreal netminder Carey Price won’t be subjected to supplemental discipline after unloading on Devils forward Kyle Palmieri, an NHL spokesman has confirmed.
The incident in question occurred with 18 seconds left in the first period of Montreal’s 5-2 win on Thursday. Price, visibly upset following Palmieri’s net drive, repeatedly punched the New Jersey forward in the midsection with his blocker.
Price received a pair of roughing minors on the play but, as several people pointed out, he could’ve been slapped with a match penalty, based on rule 51.3:
Match Penalty – If, in the judgment of the Referee, a goalkeeper uses his blocking glove to punch an opponent in the head or face in an attempt to or to deliberately injure an opponent, a match penalty must be assessed.
Price didn’t appear to strike Palmieri in the head or face, and the “deliberately injure” part is pretty subjective. Which is why some thought this could rise to the level of a disciplinary hearing.
The Habs ‘tender said he had no regrets about going after Palmieri.
“I got run on the first goal and I wasn’t going to take another one,” Price said, per the Montreal Gazette. “I got fired up, I guess. I’m going to stick up for myself now.
“It seems to be the nature of the league, to go hard to the net, run the goalie and score the goal. You have to stick up for yourself once in a while.”
The Dallas Stars have activated winger Jiri Hudler off injured reserve.
Hudler has only played four games this season. He was in the lineup for the Stars’ first two games, then missed five with an undisclosed illness. He returned to play twice more, on Oct. 29 and Nov. 1, but has been out ever since due to the same illness.
“I think now it’s just all about conditioning,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said earlier this week, per the Dallas Morning News. “He’s missed a tremendous amount of time, but he’s got a good week ahead of him here. I don’t know where he’ll be by the end of the week, but I think we can get him five real good days and we’ll see by the weekend where he’s at.”
The Stars play in Philadelphia tomorrow afternoon, then travel to Chicago for a game Sunday evening.
Hudler, 32, is with Dallas on a one-year, $2 million contract. He has yet to register his first point with the Stars.
To make room on the roster, Jason Dickinson was returned to the AHL.