Henrik Sedin, Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Burrows, Daniel Sedin

Vancouver Canucks still looking to improve team this offseason: “There is money to be spent”

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What’s the old saying? The rich only get richer? Under just about every measure of a team, the Vancouver Canucks are one of the richest teams out there these days. They won the Presidents’ Trophy as the best team in the regular season, won the Northwest Division by 23 point and were within a single game of their first Stanley Cup in their 40-year franchise history last season. Even though the season is still two months away, they’re already the favorites to win next year’s Cup.

This just in: they’re pretty good.

Apparently they’re not good enough though. There are reports out of Vancouver that the organization is still looking to make another move to help strengthen their team next season. From Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province:

“‘We’re still looking at areas to improve the hockey team,’ assistant GM Laurence Gilman admitted. ‘There is money to be spent.’

The Canucks do have some flexibility with cap space — they vow to spend to the limit — a glut of borderline second liners and a backup goalie who is ready to be a starter for another team. So, they’re not against making some moves.”

A quick look at the Canucks salary cap situation after the Jannik Hansen signing shows they have 23 roster player signed for the 2011-12 season for $61.8 million (per Capgeek.com); they have just over $2.5 million to play with next season. If Cody Hodgson were to make the team, his $1.6 million cap hit would chew away at their available cap space. Same goes for 21-year-old defenseman Chris Tanev and his $900,000 cap hit. But assuming those players aren’t able to make the team (and judging by the current roster, they probably won’t), the Canucks still have money to play with.

Of course, there could be plenty more cap space if the Canucks are looking to make a trade instead of a free agent signing. If they were able to part ways with Keith Ballard’s $4.2 million cap hit, the city of Vancouver may riot in celebration they’d be able to fit just about any player they covet under the salary cap. The Canucks would be able to fit a scorer to help Ryan Kesler on the second line if they wanted a forward. They’d be able to find another defenseman to replace the departed Christian Ehrhoff.

Again, this is a team that dominated play during the regular season last year. Not only did they dominate with 117 points (10 points better than the 2nd place Caps), but scored the most goals in the league and allowed the fewest. They were the best team on the power play and up until the last week of the season, they were the best team on the penalty kill. They were a well-rounded, well-oiled machine last year.

The rest of the Western Conference has been spending the offseason trying to figure out how they were going to match the Canucks of a year ago. Now they can worry about the Canucks trying to make themselves even better than they were last year. Good luck with that.

Sullivan calls it a ‘blindside hit to the head,’ but Marleau doesn’t think suspension’s coming

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PITTSBURGH — It didn’t take long for the first controversial incident of the Stanley Cup Final.

Patrick Marleau‘s illegal check to the head on Bryan Rust — one that earned Marleau a minor penalty, and forced Rust to exit the game — left Rust day-to-day with an upper-body injury, per Pens head coach Mike Sullivan.

When asked what he thought of the hit, Sullivan was blunt.

“It’s a blindside hit to the head,” he said. “[Marleau] gets a penalty and I’m sure the league will look at it.”

Marleau wasn’t saying much about the incident following the game, but did suggest he wasn’t expecting supplemental discipline:

“I just tried to keep everything down,” Marleau added. “I didn’t want to get too high on him.”

It’ll be interesting to see what transpires. There hasn’t been a suspension in the Stanley Cup Final since Vancouver’s Aaron Rome was given a four-game ban for his massive hit on Boston forward Nathan Horton.

Marleau has no history with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

It should be mentioned the DoPS has been fairly active this spring, handing down five suspensions, including a pair of three-gamers to Brooks Orpik and Brayden Schenn.

Bonino scores late, role guys star again as Pens take Game 1

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PITTSBURGH — If this playoff run has proven anything, it’s that the Penguins are more than Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Tonight only reaffirmed it.

Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary and Nick Bonino did all the scoring on Monday, with Bonino’s late marker the winner as Pittsburgh defeated San Jose 3-2 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Bonino’s goal, his fourth of the playoffs, came with just over two minutes remaining, capping off a quality opener in which both teams carried play for long stretches.

Rust and Sheary punctuated a dominant opening period for the Penguins — they out-shot the Sharks 15-4 — but the Sharks replied with a stellar second frame, equalizing on goals from Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau.

That set the stage for a dramatic third, and the Bonino goal.

That he, Rust and Sheary did the scoring for Pittsburgh was fitting. There’d been plenty of talk heading into this series about role players coming up large, to the point where the American Hockey League sent out a press release noting that 23 of 25 Penguins that’ve played in the playoffs thus far came through Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, highlighting this spring’s “big four” of Rust, Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl and Matt Murray.

Rust etched himself into Pittsburgh lore in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over the Lightning.

Murray’s exploits are pretty well-known. The 22-year-old was remarkably solid after regaining the starter’s net from Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 6 of the ECF, stopping 44 of 47 shots over the final two games of the series.

He was good again on Monday, with 24 saves on 26 shots.

Sheary, the diminutive speedster, scored his third goal of the playoffs tonight. Kuhnhackl tied a team high with eight hits.

As such, Pittsburgh has to be thrilled about how tonight went. They held up home ice and got contributions from across the board — the only downer has to be the health of Rust, who twice exited the contest after taking a hit to the head from Marleau.

As for the Sharks… well, this one will sting a bit. The club did remarkably well to rally from a two-goal deficit and carried play in the second period, but can’t be pleased.

They were beaten in the possession game and out-shot badly (41-26), things head coach Peter DeBoer wanted to control against Pittsburgh, a team he considers the fastest in the league.

That said, there are positives moving forward. Martin Jones was outstanding in his Stanley Cup Final debut, with 38 saves on 41 shots, and there’s still a chance to get the split on Wednesday night.

Of course, to do that, the Sharks will have to figure out how to slow down Pittsburgh’s role players.

Video: Patrick Marleau gets minor penalty for hit on Bryan Rust

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Patrick Marleau made a big impact with the 2-2 goal in Game 1, yet a hit he delivered on Bryan Rust might draw more attention.

With the score tied 2-2, Marleau was whistled for a minor penalty for “illegal check to the head” on Rust. The Pittsburgh Penguins power play was not able to score on the San Jose Sharks during that two-minute power play.

Rust left the bench for a short period of time, yet he returned to action.

Some believe that Marleau deserves a look from the Department of Player Safety for the check. Others wonder if it should have been a penalty at all.

Watch the video above and check out the GIFs below to decide for yourself:

Sharks flip the script, tie Penguins heading into third period

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Tomas Hertl #48 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates with teammates after scoring a second period goal against Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (not pictured) in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the San Jose Sharks in the first period of Game 1, no doubt about it.

Even so, the Sharks entered the middle frame down 2-0, and responded rather than shriveling up. They basically switched roles with the Penguins in the second period, ultimately tying things up 2-2.

The first goal was one Matt Murray would probably like back (even more than a goalie would want any goal back, mind you), as Tomas Hertl beat him five-hole for a power-play goal.

Witness the Sharks’ first-ever goal in a Stanley Cup Final:

Fittingly, a grizzled veteran and longtime face of the Sharks’ franchise tied it up, as Patrick Marleau made it 2-2 with a clever wraparound:

Which team will win the third period? Could we see overtime? Find out on NBC.