NHL shot-blocking leader Gorges: “Sometimes it’s awful”

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With just nine games left in the regular season, it looks as though Montreal Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges will finish as the NHL’s shot block king.

The 27-year-old rearguard has blocked a league-high 215 shots this season — 39 more than Anaheim’s Francois Beauchemin, 44 more than Tampa Bay’s Brett Clark — yet Gorges isn’t about to glamorize finishing atop the leaderboard.

“Sometimes it’s awful,” Gorges told the Canadian Press about being a shot-blocking specialist. “And sometimes it’s a nothing shot, just a little wrister that hits you right in that spot that kills.

“But nine times out of 10 it gets you on the shin pad or the pants and you don’t really feel it.”

Gorges has been a bright spot in an otherwise dark year for Montreal, the lynchpin of the league’s best penalty kill — 89.5 percent — that’s also one of the busiest. The Canadiens have been shorthanded 276 times this season (second most in the NHL) which has given Gorges plenty of opportunity to hurl his body in front of vulcanized rubber.

“It usually stems from the penalty kill,” Gorges said. “That’s when you get most of your opportunities to block shots.

“This year, being out there more than ever, I’ve had the opportunity to get in the way of shooting lanes and knock down some of those pucks and that’s why the numbers are a little higher.”

Gorges averages around three blocked shots a game and, assuming he maintains that pace, could top 240 blocks on the year. That’d be one of the highest totals in recent memory, surpassing last year’s shot-blocking king (New York’s Dan Girardi, 236) — though falling short of Zbynek Michalek’s 271 blocked shots in 2008-09.

Gorges appreciates the importance of finishing atop such a statistical category, but realizes the sum isn’t greater than its individual parts.

“Any time you can lead the league in something it’s nice, as long as it’s a positive stat,” he said. “Whether I am or not doesn’t really make a difference to me.

“The most important thing is not how many you have but making the timely ones, where a guy has a wide open net and the goalie can’t get across and you get that block, or a guy’s walking right down the pipe and you don’t know if he’ll score or not and you get that block.”

Predators eliminate Ducks, reach first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history

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Colton Sissons made a serious argument that the Nashville Predators do, indeed, still have a No. 1 center.

At least, he certainly played that way on Monday, generating a hat trick as the Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks via a 6-3 win, taking the series 4-2.

In doing so, the Predators advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

That 6-3 score is very misleading. While Nashville managed 2-0 and 3-1 leads, there was plenty of drama in this one, as the Ducks did not go down easily. Cam Fowler tied it up 3-3 in the third period, briefly stunning a rowdy crowd in Nashville.

Sissons was up to the task, however, settling down a bouncing puck on an otherwise stupendous Calle Jarnkrok pass to score the game-winner, notching a hat trick in the process. Sissons continues to be an unlikely hero for a Predators team dealing with the absence of Ryan Johansen (not to mention Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, and others).

Two empty-netters inflated the score, and they also sapped drama from the closing moments, which must have been quite the relief considering how much resolve Anaheim showed.

Peter Laviolette distinguishes himself as one of the NHL’s most underrated bench bosses, becoming just the fourth coach in league history to take three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. He couldn’t win it all with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he does have a ring thanks to his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Perhaps he’ll take another one this spring?

It’s quite the moment for GM David Poile, too, after trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban and Seth Jones for Johansen, among other pivotal moves.

The Ducks might wonder what could have been if John Gibson played instead of Jonathan Bernier. Bernier struggled early, allowing two goals on the first three shots he faced and generally having a tough Game 6. Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, maintained his mostly great run in the playoffs; he protected a Predators lead even when the Ducks dominated long stretches of play.

Now the Predators get a nice rest, as the Eastern Conference Final continues with a Game 6 on Tuesday (and possibly a Game 7 on Thursday).

They’ll limp a bit toward that final round, but the Predators seem to be embracing new territory. And sometimes new heroes.

Video: Ducks’ 3-3 goal survives goalie interference review

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When the Nashville Predators went up 3-1 in the third period, it seemed like they might finally put the Anaheim Ducks away in Game 6. The Ducks quickly responded with “Not yet.”

Two minutes after that 3-1 goal, Chris Wagner kept Anaheim’s hopes alive with a surprising tally. Corey Perry then bumped Pekka Rinne, but he was able to reset before Cam Fowler scored the 3-3 goal 8:52 into the final frame (of regulation).

In less than six minutes of game time, the tone of the contest changed rapidly. Now we’ll see if either team can get the next tally in the remaining minutes of the third or if the Stanley Cup Playoffs will see yet another overtime contest.

Here’s the Wagner goal:

You can see the 3-3 goal in the video above. Hold onto your seats.

Update: Moments after this was published, Colton Sissons‘ hat-trick goal made it 4-3. Could there be even more drama? We’ll see …

Game 6 is airing on NBCSN. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

Coyotes’ Dylan Strome breaks Memorial Cup record with 7 points in game

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Dylan Strome’s journey to becoming a full-timer at the NHL level might be a little bumpy, but he continues to distinguish himself at other levels.

In the case of Monday, it was setting a new Memorial Cup record. With four goals and three assists, Strome’s seven-point game set a new record as he helped the Eerie Otters pummel the Saint John Sea Dogs 12-5.

They’ll face the Windsor Spitfires on Wednesday to determine which team goes to the tournament’s final round.

The performance wasn’t lost on his brother Ryan Strome.

Ducks dominate, but Predators enter third up 2-1

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So far, it seems like Jonathan Bernier playing instead of John Gibson for the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 has indeed been a pretty big deal.

Bernier allowed two goals on the first three shots he faced against to start Game 6, putting the Ducks in an early hole. The Ducks have been absolutely dominating the contest since then, but only Ondrej Kase could get a puck beyond Pekka Rinne through the first 40 minutes.

Seriously, the play’s been lopsided. Nashville managed a few shots after this tweet, yet it still tells much of the story.