Tim Thomas, Phil Kessel

Video: Tim Thomas uses yoga to get an extra edge in net

Before most hockey games, it’s common to see an NHL goalie stretching his body to seemingly inhuman lengths in preparation for a night’s work. That being said, few netminders have ever contorted their bodies to make saves quite like Boston Bruins star Tim Thomas.

When asked if his award-winning 2010-11 season and playoff run validated his occasionally criticized style, Thomas called himself the “redneck of goalies,” explaining that he “duct tapes” different techniques and ideas together to get the job done.

That being said, there’s one weapon in Thomas’ tool box that might make him more of a “hippie netminder” than a “redneck of goalies”: his long-time use of yoga. The world-class goalie began using those techniques once he truly gained traction at the NHL level with the Boston Bruins. He discussed as much way back in 2007, as you can see in this story in The Hockey News.

“I also did some yoga, which sounds kind of funny,” Thomas adds. “I actually didn’t know how much it was going to help, but it helps balance out your body. They try to find weaknesses in your body and work on them so they catch up with the rest of your body. Your body is more balanced overall in terms of both flexibility and strength. A lot of the techniques have to do with balance. Not that I think my balance was bad, but it certainly is better now.”

Maybe it doesn’t earn many macho points, but athletes are known to look for an edge in every avenue possible. Some do so by disparate measures like boxing training or dancing. Yoga and pilates seem like an ideal match for the goaltending position, so it makes sense that Thomas, Cam Ward and Henrik Lundqvist are among its most notable proponents.

It’s likely that those flexibility and balance-boosting exercises might make the most sense for more athletic types such as Thomas, but more rigid butterfly goalies could probably benefit from it as well. Perhaps some might think that Thomas looks silly in the NHL.com video featured below, but those practices help him avoid the worst look of all: the puck going in his net.

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(H/T to USA Hockey.)

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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NBCSN screen
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Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.

Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP
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Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

“It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.