Los Angeles Kings v St. Louis Blues - Game Two

Backes makes pointed comments about Blues’ lack of “buy in”

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The St. Louis Blues’ locker room was an emotional place following a four-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings, reports the Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford.

Which might explain the  comments made by team captain David Backes.

Backes spoke of buy in, sacrifice and commitment — which he said the Kings had more of.

“I hammered a few guys this series and the guy that I hammered was going, ‘Don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it,'” Backes said. “I was like, these guys are all-in. They’re ready to play and ready to sacrifice for each other. To me, that was impressive and I just wish that we were able to buy in to it for our benefit.

“That’s the way we played all year, but we got off that page at a time when we were playing a team that was fully committed to that page … taking that punch in the face, sticking your head out there to get hit rather than shying away from physical play.”

The Blues didn’t just shy away from physical play — they also responded to it poorly, according to Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock:

“When the temperature emotionally of the games went up, I think our personal discipline wasn’t there. The little edge you need is a learned skill, and we didn’t have it. So we took penalties at the wrong time. We got emotionally wrapped up in the shift, and couldn’t shut it down when you need to shut it down.”

Retaliatory and poorly-timed penalties unhinged St. Louis throughout:

— In Game 1, the Blues took three third-period penalties (including a double minor) while trying to rally from a one-goal deficit.

— In Game 2, they fell behind 4-0 and took 57 penalty minutes.

— In Game 3, LA scored the game-winner after Jamie Langenbrunner took an interference penalty.

— In Game 4, Scott Nichol derailed the Blues’ third-period comeback effort with a double-minor for high sticking and Matt D’Agostini was whistled for boarding, negating a penalty on the Kings’ Dustin Brown.

Hitchcock suggested the offseason would be one of self-analysis for the Blues.

“There’s some looking in the mirror for some people,” he said. “There will be some frank discussions with other people about us getting to the next level.”

Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

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Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below:

Stamkos close to game shape, but return might be weeks or months away

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Steve Stamkos began to practice again on Tuesday and he was back out there on Wednesday and Thursday, which some might interpret as him being close to returning. It seems premature to say that definitively.

“It could be weeks. It could be months,” Stamkos said of his timetable, per ESPN. “That’s the tough part.”

The problem isn’t getting back into game shape after undergoing vascular surgery in early April. He feels he’s already close to reaching that objective. The issue is that Stamkos is on blood thinners, which prevents him from taking any contact. It remains to be seen how long he’ll be on blood thinners.

For what it’s worth, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy underwent the same surgery and was out for two months and the original timetable provided on April 4 for Stamkos was one-to-three months. So based on that, it sounds like it would be surprising if he returned anytime soon.

Bergeron, Kesler, Kopitar named Selke finalists

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron celebrates after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Will Patrice Bergeron join Bob Gainey as the only players to have ever won the Selke Trophy four times?

That’s a distinct possibility after the Bruins center was named as a finalist along with Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar.

The Selke Trophy honors the league’s top defensive forward and for three of the last four years, that distinction has gone to Bergeron. However, Kesler and Kopitar have been popular with the voters of this award as well.

Kopitar has finished second in the voting in each of the previous two campaigns while Kesler won back in 2011, though he finished outside of the top-five in each of the last three years prior to the 2015-16 campaign.

Among the trio, Kesler excelled this season on the draw with a 58.5% success rate, which was good for second in the league among forwards who took at least 200 faceoffs. Bergeron was up there too, winning 57.1% of his draws while Kopitar posted a 53.5%. Meanwhile, Bergeron ranked seventh in the NHL with 67 takeaways compared to Kesler’s 39 and Kopitar’s 43. Where Kopitar stood out was in plus/minus as he finished second in the league at plus-34. Kesler was plus-five and Bergeron was plus-12.

Kopitar similarly led the trio with a 57.4% Corsi For versus Bergeron’s 55.9% and Kesler’s 52.9%.

Capitals get Orpik back for series opener

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) celebrates his goal with teammates on the bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Washington. The Capitals won 4-3. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik missed half of Washington’s first round series, but he’s back in time for the opener against his former team.

Orpik last played on April 18 and was regarded as questionable going into tonight’s contest against Pittsburgh. He’s expected to be paired with John Carlson throughout the contest.

Washington’s other projected pairings are Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen as well as Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt.

Orpik was limited to 41 games during the 2015-16 regular season, but when he did play he averaged 19:48 minutes per contest. He also recorded 125 hits and 102 blocked shots despite missing half the season. The 35-year-old blueliner got his start with Pittsburgh and played in 703 regular season contests with them and an additional 92 postseason contests. This is his second season with Washington.