Former Washington coach Bruce Boudreau hasn’t forgiven Jaroslav Halak for what he did to the Capitals.
Boudreau’s Ducks host Halak and the Blues tonight. Thus, the question about 2010.
To refresh your memory, Halak led the underdog Canadiens to a shocking first-round upset of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals in 2010. He stopped all but three of the 134 shots he faced in In Games 5, 6 and 7, and was named first star in all three outings.
“I thought we had a good chance to win the Stanley Cup this year,” Boudreau said after Game 7, “and I would have bet my house that they wouldn’t have beaten us three games in a row and we would have only scored three goals in almost 140 shots.”
The Habs advanced to the second round where they pulled off another upset, this time over the defending champion Penguins, and once again in large part due to Halak.
So it wasn’t just the Caps who fell victim to brilliant goaltending.
But for Washington, the first-round elimination led to a major change in strategy. The next season Boudreau was preaching defense while eschewing run-and-gun hockey. The Capitals still won a lot of regular-season games, but they scored almost 100 fewer goals and were swept in the second round of the playoffs by Tampa Bay.
Along the way, Washington’s superstar, Alex Ovechkin, seemed to lose his zest for the game. Clearly the new, conservative approach wasn’t as fun to play. Or, for that matter, watch.
All of which begs the question, if Boudreau thought Halak was such a major factor in the series, why did he change his team’s style so dramatically? Not saying the Caps would’ve done any better if they kept running and gunning — just wondering which direction they would’ve taken if not for an unheralded goalie that went on an amazing run.
Tavares says ‘no rush’ to sign extension with Isles
John Tavares keeps saying all the right things about his future with the New York Islanders.
But that doesn’t change the fact he still doesn’t have a contract extension in place.
Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, spoke with Newsday yesterday, telling the newspaper he was in “no rush” to sign and that he’s comfortable to just “let the process run its course, keep the lines of communication open, keep it all internal.”
It’s been reported that the Isles’ uncertain arena situation could be complicating matters. It’s still not clear where the team will call home for the long term.
On that topic, Tavares chose to avoid making any definitive statements.
“The possibility with Belmont and that RFP coming out, there’s great potential there,” the 26-year-old said. “We’ll see where it goes. A lot of those things are out of my hands. Some things I don’t try to worry about them too, too much. I’m just a hockey player. I try to be as best prepared as I can be. It’s a big decision obviously because it’s eight years of my career, really entering into my prime years and a great opportunity for myself to achieve what I set out to achieve when I was a kid, making it to the NHL, wanting to win a Stanley Cup and wanting to do that with the Islanders.”
There’s more in the interview, including his thoughts on the Isles’ offseason moves. Click here to give it a read.
Perhaps we should just focus on someone else, but the Penguins gave the 23-year-old defenseman a one-year contract extension in July. The eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Pouliot knows time is running short to prove Pittsburgh didn’t make a big mistake.
It should be compelling to watch how he fares.
“I’ve got to make an impact right away and show that I belong in the NHL,” he said, per the Post-Gazette. “It’s been three years now. I haven’t fully established myself yet. I want to take it one step at a time and build as the year goes on.”
But it’s worth noting that he’s no longer exempt from waivers. So unless he earns a spot, that could mean a change of scenery, with the Penguins either losing him for nothing or trading him for pennies on the dollar.
He could then languish on that roster until an injury gives him a chance to play.
The first step, though, is coming into camp and building off the back half of last season.
“For me to establish myself as an NHL defenseman, a regular guy in the lineup, it’s kind of playing how I ended the season: solid defensively, consistent in that regard,” Pouliot said, per the Tribune-Review. “That’s been one thing that’s always been brought up about me, inconsistency. So I think it’s starting with that and building each game.”
In a twist, Kunitz is one of those departed players that Aston-Reese may help replace.
“He was a college free agent, too, and kind of a goal scorer his last couple years in college,” Aston-Reese said of Kunitz, per NHL.com. “Just made a career for himself playing with good guys and being able to put the puck in the back of the net.”
But despite all the accolades, he knows he’s still just a prospect, with a lot left to learn, and a lot left to prove.
“Whether we start up top or down in Wilkes-Barre, I think it’s important to be in the same mindset that, you’re trying to get better every day you show up to the rink,” he said, per the Post-Gazette. “If we do get that opportunity, we need to have a good mindset, produce and do what they ask of us.”
Fleury may not have been between the pipes when the Penguins hoisted the Stanley Cup in each of the last two seasons, but he played a crucial part in each victory. On top of playing 38 games during the regular season, he also compiled a 9-6 record with a 2.56 goals-against-average and a .924 save percentage during the 2017 postseason.
Without Fleury on the roster, the pressure will fall squarely on Matt Murray‘s shoulders. Murray may own two rings, but he has yet to go through the challenges of an 82-game season plus playoffs. New backup Antti Niemi probably won’t be capable of filling in as well as Fleury did.
One of the major reasons the Pens were able to go on two championship runs was because of the depth they had accumulated at center. Any team would love to have one of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, but Pittsburgh is fortunate enough to have both. The Penguins’ depth didn’t stop there. They also had Nick Bonino on their third line and Matt Cullen on their fourth, which is pretty impressive.
Both Bonino and Cullen will play in the Western Conference next year. Finding competent players to play on the third and fourth line isn’t as difficult as getting top line talent, but those two losses will probably hurt them pretty badly.
Bonino had 18 goals and 37 points during the 2016-17 regular season and he added a modest seven points in 21 games during the postseason before being ruled out with a lower-body injury. Last year, he put up less points in the regular season (29), but he had an impressive 18 points in 24 games during the playoffs. He was also capable of playing a solid two-way game.
Cullen, who signed with Minnesota yesterday, also found a way to contribute, despite playing a bottom-six role on such a deep team. The 40-year-old scored 32 and 31 points in his two years with the Penguins and he also added six and nine points during the playoff runs. He also won plenty of key faceoffs and played well without the puck.
Trevor Daley was unable to finish the 2016 playoffs because of an ankle injury, but he also played a vital role during Pittsburgh’s impressive accomplishment. Daley, who is now with the Red Wings, was able to hold down the fort while Kris Letang was out. He averaged over 20 minutes of ice time during the regular season and 19 more in the spring.
Ron Hainsey was a smart, underrated trade deadline acquisition by GM Jim Rutherford. The veteran stepped into the lineup and played 21 minutes per night for his new team. He also chipped in with eight points in 25 games. He got himself a nice contract with the Maple Leafs on July 1st.
Chris Kunitz had been a big contributor for the team, but his production fell off dramatically. After scoring 35 goals during the 2013-14 season, he added 17, 17 and nine during his last three years in Pittsburgh. It became pretty clear that he wasn’t able to play at the same level he had been in previous years, so it wasn’t surprising to see him go elsewhere (Tampa Bay) when free agency opened.
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