“Three (News) Stars of the Week” will run every Friday. It’s our way of acknowledging the week’s big NHL stories that gave us lots of page views, thereby increasing PHT’s attractiveness to advertisers.
Third star: A bunch of teenagers who are good at hockey
A number of the top picks from the 2011 draft were under the microscope this week as teams had to decide whether to keep their highly-touted prospects or send them back to junior. Most of the big names survived the cut, including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Larsson and Sean Couturier. Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad didn’t make it, so he’s clearly a bust. It will be interesting to see if any of the teams made mistakes keeping their young guys up instead of giving them more time to develop at a lower level. Kyle Turris was rushed into the NHL too soon, and his career’s a mess right now.
Second star: Somebody had to pay for Montreal’s slow start
The Canadiens lost to Florida on Monday at the Bell Center, dropping their record to a disastrous 1-5-2. It was the Habs’ worst start since dinosaurs roamed the earth, so the city was in quite the tizzy. Calls for coach Jacques Martin’s head came from both the fans and media. Sensing this unrest, GM Pierre Gauthier took decisive action and fired assistant coach Perry Pearn. Why he did this isn’t entirely clear. Some have speculated Martin had become too reliant on Pearn’s advice and wasn’t listening to the other people in the organization. Those other people must have had some useful things to say, because as soon as Pearn was gone the Habs started winning.
First star: Ilya Bryzgalov is a basket-case
The Flyers thought they’d finally put their biggest issue to rest this summer when general manager Paul Holmgren signed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a huge contract that doesn’t run out for a long, long time. Many long-time hockey watchers considered it a risky move, as the 31-year-old Russian with the peculiar personality boasts no record of playoff success and has never played in a big hockey market like Philadelphia. Bryzgalov started out well with his new team, but he quickly fell on hard times. After a poor performance Wednesday in Montreal, he was forced to come off the bench Thursday against the Jets in relief of back-up Sergei Bobrovsky. Bryzgalov allowed four goals on 10 shots and Winnipeg won 9-8, after which the distraught goalie bared his soul to the media, admitting he had no confidence in himself, saying he was lost in the woods, and generally crumbling in front of our very eyes. Bryzgalov is scheduled to start Saturday in Carolina.
For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.
Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.
But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.
Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.
When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.
Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.
The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.
Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.
This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.
Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.
Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.
Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.
Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?
Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.
Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.
Official update on the really important story of the evening:
The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.
Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.
As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.
The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.
Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.
Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.
Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.