Blair Betts won’t kill penalties for the Habs after all

The Montreal Canadiens made a solid grab when they claimed penalty killing forward Blair Betts off of waivers. The Habs can cross him off their depth charts, however, as he was returned to the Philadelphia Flyers after failing a physical.

It’s unclear if Betts is still dealing with shoulder issues that have been a problem for some time. Betts said that it’s a lower-body injury instead, but whatever the ailment might be, he’s not going to suit up with the Canadiens.

In a way, this might be a blessing in disguise for Philly, even if it’s initially embarrassing.

Despite killing nine of the first 10 penalties they’ve faced, the Flyers could probably use more forward options when shorthanded. Betts will likely need to clear re-entry waivers (things get a little fuzzy with injury issues like these) to join Philadelphia again, but a reasonably healthy Betts could be a nice defensive asset. Even if they’re obviously not that fond of him in the first place. CSNPhilly.com’s Sarah Baicker expands on the roster size issues this could cause.

Update: Here’s NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s explanation for the decision.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman rendered the decision after reviewing submissions from both Clubs.  By-Law 11.8 (a) states: “The Member Club acquiring a player by waiver claim shall take an assignment of the player’s contract. Nevertheless, if the Commissioner determines that a player acquired by waiver claim is not physically fit at the time the claim is made, the Member Club making the claim may refuse to take an assignment of such player’s contract and the request for waivers shall be cancelled.”

In reaching his decision, Commissioner Bettman stated: “While it is clear that both clubs have acted in good faith in this unique situation (i.e. a waiver claim), I am not prepared to dispute the conclusion of the Montreal Club doctors that Mr. Betts was physically unfit to play at the time of the claim. Therefore, it is my decision that, per League By-Laws, the appropriate resolution to this matter is to restore the parties to the
position they were in prior to the waiver claim on Oct. 5.”

Penguins’ Guentzel makes ‘kick save’ to stop Capitals

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It doesn’t get much better than a player making the type of save you’d only expect from a goalie. OK, how about this: when it happens amid the high stakes of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel had already been distinguishing himself with a red-hot scoring start to the postseason, but he made a big difference in a way that won’t show up in the box score (aside from maybe as a blocked shot) for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals.

In one of the few golden opportunities in a notably tight first period, Guentzel made a “kick save” to keep it 0-0. He also managed to avoid giving the Capitals a penalty shot in the process, so this was quite the effort from the impressive rookie.

Video will be added soon. Here’s the moment in GIF form first:

Lundqvist snubs Sens with 21 saves in first (Video)

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You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.

The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.

As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.

In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.

That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.

Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.

Kunitz is in for Penguins vs. Capitals in Game 1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.

So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.

He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:

Foligno, Getzlaf, Giordano vie for Messier Leadership Award

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The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).

In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):

Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone. 

So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.

Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.

Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?