To some, the Florida Panthers’ acquisition of Wojtek Wolski seemed like nothing more than a low-risk Hail Mary for a decidedly up-and-down player. That’s mostly true, but the team also insisted that he would boost a problem area: shootout efficiency.
Harvey Fialkov points out that the team is a relatively successful 3-3 in the skills competition since adding Wolski, claiming that it’s “no coincidence.”
Wolski is 2-for-6 in shootouts with the Panthers, his first keeping the session alive until Dmitry Kulikov’s game winner in a 3-2 victory over the Sabres on March 17. Then on Tuesday, after a Wolski wrist shot gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead in the first period, he tallied the lone shootout goal in a 3-2 comeback victory over the Canadiens.
… So Wolski’s had a hand in getting the Panthers six points to help pad their Southeast Division lead to five points over the sinking Capitals.
It does seem like Wolski’s had his helpful moments, but claiming that he’s had a significant part in Florida acquiring those six points is a bit much. In fact, his role in that success has very much been a “coincidence” in many cases.
Instead, it’s probably more accurate to say he’s played a big role in adding two extra points to the ledger with the aforementioned shootout tying and winning tallies. After all, how can you really make a difference in your four missed opportunities? Making the other goalie tired? Perhaps giving your fellow shootout partners a hint?
Now, while that does downgrade his accomplishments a bit, keep in mind that two points aren’t anything to sneeze at. If the Panthers didn’t have those, their Southeast Division lead would be cut down to three points – and that’s assuming everything would turn out the same otherwise.
(Doc Brown would remind you that might not have been the case.)
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.