Last two Cup champs faceoff in Chicago, hangover talk abound

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There’s a little more buzz whenever the last two Stanley Cup champions get together. Some people out there think this could eventually be a Stanley Cup preview for this season, but the Bruins have plenty of things to figure out with their game before they can start thinking about another deep playoff run. It’s early and they’ll have plenty of time to figure out their issues—but they do have issues.

There’s been some talk of a Stanley Cup hangover swirling around Boston in the early part of this season. The Bruins are off to a 1-3 start and have lost back-to-back games against the Colorado Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes. Ouch. But they shouldn’t expect any sympathy from their opponents across the ice in Chicago tonight. After all, they went through the exact same thing last season.

All they have to do is look towards the Chicago Blackhawks if they want a cautionary tale. A season ago, the Blackhawks got off to a sluggish start and were constantly chasing opponents in the standings for the entire season. By the final day of the season, they needed a Dallas Stars defeat just to sneak into the playoffs. Their reward for the playoff berth was a date with the extremely talented, surging, and rival Vancouver Canucks. Needless to say, it’s a tougher path starting the playoffs as the 8th seed than it was when they were the 2nd seed and won the Cup.

Some people will tell you the slow start is really what cost the Hawks their season.

Fast-forward to this season and the Bruins are trying to avoid the same fate on the East Coast. The problem is that the early season losing has people looking for answers. Why is this team not as good as the one we saw in June? The roster is relatively the same, so it must be something—which is where the Stanley Cup hangover notion comes from. Defending Vezina/Conn Smyth/greatest ECHLer ever Tim Thomas knows that it can be a self-perpetuating prophecy:

“Of course there are effects [from winning the Cup], but I wouldn’t call it a hangover. By talking about it and by having it brought up in the media all the time, it brings it up into your conscious mind. It gives you an excuse or it allows you to think that way.

“The battle as a player is to not waste your time thinking in negative directions like that, and instead stay positive and in the moment. That was last year and this is a new year. If you want to have success, we need to focus on what each of us need to in each individual period and each individual game.”

Still, Boston has played uninspired hockey through the first week of the season and will look to find a spark against the highly-respected Blackhawks. Hawks’ star Patrick Kane certainly isn’t feeling sorry for the champs though:

“The [Bruins] are a great team. People talk about hangovers, but we lost 9, 10 guys from our team last year. They haven’t lost many and it seems they’ve made some improvements with guys like [Joe] Corvo coming over.

“If anything they’re just as good as last year, especially with guys like [Tim] Thomas and [Zdeno] Chara and their core guys they seem to be in pretty good shape. It will be a good test for sure.”

It’s easy to point towards a Stanley Cup hangover for the Bruins because their losing. The same can be said for the Chicago Blackhawks throughout the entire season last year. If the Hawks were the dominant team they were in 2009-10, there wouldn’t be any Cup hangover stories. Likewise, if the Bruins can find the game that helped them win it all last season, everyone can put this hangover talk to bed—once and for all.

It could start tonight with a win against the Blackhawks.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.

Report: Former NHL referee Devorski to stop by Jets camp

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There is heightened focus on penalties right now and the Winnipeg Jets have taken the step of bringing former NHL referee Paul Devorski to training camp for help.

The league is cracking down on slashes and faceoff infractions right now, although according to Sportsnet, Devorski’s influence at Jets camp will go beyond just those two calls.

From Sportsnet:

The retired NHL referee will be at training camp on Friday where he will officiate the team during battle drills to give Jets players a better sense of how to stay within the rules.

NHL teams reaching out to the league to consult on officiating is not new, but having a referee work on-ice with a team is a less common step.

Currently many NHL teams are consulting with the league over more hot-button issues like slashing and faceoff violations, but the Jets focus with Devorski will be on past issues.

Around the league, it will be interesting to see if there is an increase in the number of penalties called, especially early on, and if so, the possible impact that will have on the games once the regular season gets going next month.

Per Michael Traikos of the National Post, there had been 91 slashing penalties called through 19 exhibition games in which real-time statistics were kept prior to Wednesday’s slate of games.

“It definitely changes how you have to defend. Those reactionary slashes of the stick, taps to the hands, are so ingrained in a defenceman,” Eric Gryba told Sportsnet. “If they stay as rigid on the rules as they are right now… the whole makeup, landscape of the D-corps is going to change, from top to bottom. Everyone is going to have to be a better skater to defend.”

The new tweak on faceoffs has also garnered some critics. Like Brad MarchandHe isn’t a fan.

“The slashing [penalties] is one thing, but this face-off rule is an absolute joke. That’s how you ruin the game of hockey by putting that in there. They’re going to have to do something about that because we can’t play all year like that,” Marchand told CSNNE earlier this week.

“Basically you have to be a statue. You can’t move. It takes away from the center iceman. I think there was even a play [in the game I was watching] last night where a penalty was called on a 4-on-4 before play on the first penalty had even started because of a draw.”

While the Jets are seeking the knowledge of a seasoned official to help them stay out of the penalty box beyond slashing and faceoff violations, it seems the entire league is in for quite a learning experience over these next few weeks.