Picture courtesy: UMass Athletics

Tonight on NBCSN: No. 1 Boston College kicks off Hockey East tournament vs. UMass

It’s tournament time in college hockey and kicking things off tonight on NBCSN, the nation’s No. 1 team, Boston College, kicks off the Hockey East tournament in a curious way against UMass (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

While you’d think that Boston College would come into Game 1 of their series with UMass as heavy favorites, what with having home ice and being the top team in the country and all, they haven’t fared well against the Minutemen this season. The Eagles are 1-2-0 against UMass this season, winning only their first meeting this season, a 4-2 decision. In their last two games, both in Amherst, the Minutemen were decided victors with 4-2 and 4-0 wins.

Curiously, this game features relatives facing off against each other. UMass top scorer T.J. Syner and BC senior forward and top goal scorer Barry Almeida are cousins that come in looking to move on to the semifinals at TD Garden in Boston next weekend. Syner has piled up his points by setting up his teammates while Almeida has poured in 21 goals this season and even outshooting his teammate and Rangers star prospect Chris Kreider.

source:  Boston College having weapons like Almeida and Kreider is what helps set them apart from UMass. The kind of scoring depth the Eagles have is something that UMass absolutely cannot compare to. UMass sophomores Michael Pereira and Conor Sheary have done well enough to help the offense this season, but they’ll need a lot from them if they want to make it to Boston next weekend.

They’ll also need a big weekend out of freshman goalie Kevin Boyle who has been the steadier man in goal, but his numbers aren’t outstanding. That could prove to be a huge problem against a loaded BC squad. Coach Don Cahoon will have to have a few tricks up his sleeve to help his team take the series. Confidence isn’t exactly riding high in Amherst this weekend.

As for BC coach Jerry York, the Hockey East tournament kicks off with bigger goals in mind for the Eagles as they’re hoping to win yet another national championship. The Eagles very likely have a spot in the NCAA Tournament secured as is, but York will make sure his team doesn’t come in taking anything for granted. With Kreider, Almeida, and Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary) leading the offense, the Eagles are loaded. With six players in double figures in goals, UMass will have some issues containing everyone.

One area where BC is sneakily strong is on defense. Brian Dumoulin (Carolina) is banged up but will likely play while Tommy Cross (Boston) and Patch Alber give the Eagles defensive corps to be worried about. Parker Milner’s great play in goal won’t help the Minutemen feel any more comfortable about things either.

(Photo courtesy: UMass athletics)

Lehtonen only lasts one period in Game 2

Lehtonen
1 Comment

Kari Lehtonen might have been more hit than miss in the playoffs going into today’s action, but Game 2 against St. Louis was certainly a start he’d like to forget.

Dallas outshot St. Louis 10-5 in the first frame, but the Blues still managed to take a 3-1 lead. Antti Niemi replaced Lehtonen for the second period which means, barring another goalie change, Lehtonen will actually end up with a sub-.500 save percentage this afternoon.

The numbers obviously look bad and it’s hard not to blame Lehtonen in the face of that, but the Blues deserve a lot of the credit for those goals. Patrik Berglund had a great shot on goal for the first marker, Joel Edmundson‘s first career playoff goal came after a nice setup by Troy Brouwer, and when Brouwer collected his own goal it was off of a rebound during a power play.

So to an extent, you could say Lehtonen looked bad due to circumstances that were very unfavorable to him. Nevertheless, the Stars needed to shake things up after what was unquestionably a bad period for them.

Dupuis, Jagr, Zuccarello are Masterton Trophy finalists

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 18:  Pascal Dupuis #9 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in action against the New York Rangers during their game at Madison Square Garden on December 18, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis, Florida’s Jaromir Jagr, and the Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello have been selected as the three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The Masterton Trophy recognizes “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” In 2015 it went to Devan Dubnyk, who struggled mightily in 2013-14, but dramatically turned his career around the following season and led the Minnesota Wild to the playoffs in the process.

Dupuis attempted to play in the 2015-16 campaign while taking blood thinners, but on Dec. 8 he announced that he would stop playing “because of a medical condition related to blood clots.”

Jagr celebrated his 44th birthday in February, but despite his age he managed to score 27 goals and 66 points in 79 contests this season. With that, he became the oldest player to reach the 60-point mark in a single NHL campaign.

Zuccarello played in 81 games and set career-highs with 26 goals and 61 points this season after suffering a skull fracture and brain contusion during the 2015 playoffs that left him temporarily unable to speak.

Can there be parallels drawn between the 2016 Ducks and 2014 Sharks?

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) takes the puck up ice on a breakaway with San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, center, and Ducks center Nate Thompson, right, trailing on the play during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
AP Photo
1 Comment

The Anaheim Ducks might not have suffered a reverse sweep at the hands of one of their biggest rivals, but they seem to have reached a breaking point when it comes to playoff disappointments.

After firing head coach Bruce Boudreau, GM Bob Murray was highly critical of the team’s core, even noting that at this point he’s not a fan of long-term contracts. That was perhaps a swipe at how he feels Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf‘s eight-year $69 million and $66 million contracts have worked out thus far. Meanwhile Ryan Kesler‘s six-year deal worth roughly $41 million is about to begin.

After San Jose suffered its first round loss to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said they were now becoming a “tomorrow team” and they began a cultural shift that included Joe Thornton losing the captaincy.

There are differences of course between the two situations. One notable one is that the Sharks’ guard was already starting to change hands in 2013-14. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were entering their mid-30s, but Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture were on the rise. Anaheim’s core of Getzlaf and Perry is significantly younger, but while Anaheim also has some promising forwards like Jakob Silfverberg, that generation of players doesn’t seem ready to carry the torch for the Ducks.

“We don’t have a lot of young guys in the lineup. … Today’s a much different feeling leaving the rink,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said, per the Los Angeles Times. “In those [previous] years there’s been a sense of hope. Today, there’s zero feeling like that.”

Perhaps the Anaheim Ducks will find hope by watching the rest of the 2016 playoffs. If the San Jose Sharks continue to succeed, they will be an example of a team that once underachieved, hit a critical low, but then managed to fix that in a relatively short time without a massive turnover in terms of on-ice personnel. While we’re at it, you could make a similar argument for the Washington Capitals.

Maybe Murray will look to those franchises for inspiration as he moves forward.

Capitals, Penguins nearly perfect at stopping third period comebacks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) chase down the puck during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
AP Photo
4 Comments

Pittsburgh only won by a single goal in Game 2 on Saturday and that deciding marker came with 4:28 minutes remaining in the third, but that contest had the potential to be far more one-sided.

The Capitals were outshot 28-10 through 40 minutes and were consequently leaning on goaltender Braden Holtby to keep things close.

“First two periods, I thought they were way better than us,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. Or has Justin Williams put it, the Capitals “were getting embarrassed out there” during the first 40 minutes.

Washington did rebound in the third period, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from evening this series at 1-1. That puts the pressure on Washington to take at least one game in Pittsburgh before the second round’s over.

Starting the game off strong is always going to be important, but that’s particularly true when talking about the Penguins and Capitals. Pittsburgh was 39-0-0 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes while Washington was 37-0-1. So far in the playoffs, both teams are 4-0-0 when they have the lead after two periods.