The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers seem poised for a first-round playoff matchup, but Sunday’s game (12:30 pm ET, NBC) is more than just a preview of what’s to come. Only three points separate the Penguins and Flyers and they’re scheduled to play each other twice in their final four games. Ultimately, they’re fighting for home ice advantage in the first round, which is a big deal considering that both teams have been dominant while playing at home.
Philadelphia has been one of the most offensively gifted teams in the league this season. Claude Giroux has not only proven that his 2010-11 breakout campaign wasn’t a fluke, he’s managed to set new career-highs in goals, assists and points. Meanwhile, Scott Hartnell is having one of the best seasons of his career and has been one of the league’s top all-around forwards this season — no one else has at least 35 goals, 100 penalty minutes, and 100 hits.
Beyond their top two scorers, Philly has a terrific supporting cast led by Jaromir Jagr, who has proven he still has what it takes to play in the NHL after spending three seasons in the KHL.
Still, for as many offensive weapons as the Flyers have, the Penguins outdo them in that department. Sidney Crosby is a huge threat now that he’s healthy, but he just represents the tip of the iceberg. The Penguins have five players with at least 20 goals, including two of the top-four leading goal scorers in Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. In fact, starting with their game against Boston on March 11, Pittsburgh has found the back of the net at least three times in 10 of their last 11 games. The one exception was on March 18 when the Penguins ran into the only goaltender that has been able to stand up to them lately: Philadelphia’s Ilya Bryzgalov.
The problem is that Bryzgalov has a chip fracture in his foot, so he’ll either be playing through the pain on Sunday or, more likely, sitting out of the contest. In either scenario, the Flyers defenders will need to do their part if they want to beat the Penguins and give themselves a legitimate shot at the fourth seed.
The San Jose Sharks 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night was not only the end of their 2016-17 season, it could have also been the end of an era.
With veterans Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1, their future with the team remains uncertain, and neither one seemed prepared to talk about it in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s defeat.
Sharks forward Logan Couture was asked if he wants to see the two players return next season and made it pretty clear that he does.
“You’re asking a guy who’s played with those guys for eight years,” said Couture, via Paul Gackle of the Mecrury News. “I love those guys. They play hard. If you guys only knew what they play through. The respect level that I have for those two guys is just through the roof.”
There are a number of variables that are going to play a role in whether or not the two leading scorers in franchise history will be back.
Along with their willingness to return is the fact that both players will be entering their age 38 seasons and already showed some signs of slowing down this season. How much cap space are the Sharks going to be willing to invest in the duo when they already have $55.7 million in salary cap space committed to 16 players for next season, especially given their ages.
If this does turn out to be the end for Thornton and/or Marleau in San Jose their time will be remembered more for not winning a Stanley Cup and probably not for how much success they have actually had on the ice, both individually and as a team. Not only have Thornton and Marleau been two of the NHL’s best and most productive players over the past decade, but the Sharks have been one of the NHL’s best teams. Since the 2005-06 season, when Thornton first arrived in San Jose, the Sharks have won a league best 547 regular season games (11 more than the team with the second-most wins, the Pittsburgh Penguins) while their 64 playoff wins are tied for the fourth most (Anaheim Ducks) behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Detroit Red Wings.
It is a win or go home situation for the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, as both teams enter their respective Game 6s facing elimination in their first-round playoff series’.
The Bruins need to beat the Ottawa Senators to force a Game 7 on Tuesday night, while the Toronto Maple Leafs need a win to extend their series against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals to a decisive seventh game on Wednesday.
Both games will be shown on the NBC Networks and streamed online.
Here is all of the information you need for Sunday’s games.
Boston Bruins vs. Ottawa Senators
Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
Network: NBC (Stream Online Here)
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Washington Capitals
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream Online Here)
The Boston Bruins will once again be without forward David Krejci on Sunday afternoon when they face the Ottawa Senators in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series, coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed.
It will be the third game that Krejci has missed in the series due to a lower-body injury.
Matt Beleskey, who has only played in two of the first five games of the series, will draw into the lineup in his place.
Krejci’s absence still leaves the Bruins shorthanded as they are still without defensemen Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo. Cassidy said on Sunday that Krug has resumed skating but is still not ready to return to the lineup.
The Senators have a couple of lineup questions of their own. Forward Viktor Stalberg is a game-time decision, while Guy Boucher is making one change on defense with Chris Wideman coming out of the lineup for Fredrik Claesson.
The Los Angeles Kings moved fairly quickly when it comes to replacing Darryl Sutter, and they did not have to go very far to do it.
The Kings announced on Sunday that John Stevens will take over as the team’s next head coach. The team will have a press conference on Monday.
Stevens has been an assistant coach with the Kings since the start of the 2010-11 season and spent four games as an interim head coach with the team during the 2011-12 season after Terry Murray was fired, and before Sutter was hired. Following the arrival of Sutter, Stevens went back to his role as an assistant, remaining in that position until now.
“John and I had very productive dialogue this last week in relation to his head coaching philosophy and specifically how he would implement a strategy to activate our players offensively while maintaining the defensive philosophies we have come to be known for,” general manager Rob Blake said in a statement released by the team.
“I am confident that we are both in agreement on how that can be executed. With that said, we believe John has the ideal qualities to lead our hockey club. His wide array of coaching experience, including success as an NHL head coach and his inherent knowledge of our players and those in our development system, is very appealing to us. We are confident he is the best person to lead our hockey club forward.”
Prior to his time with the Kings, Stevens served as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers between 2006-07 and 2009-10, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2007-08 season.
He has a 122-111-34 record as an NHL head coach.
The fact the Kings are promoting from within (something they already did with the general manager role) is a pretty clear sign that even though they are seeking a different direction, they are maybe not quite prepared to go through a complete teardown of the organization.
They have missed the playoffs in two of the past three seasons, and have not won a postseason series since 2014.