The most indelible moment from New Jersey’s Stanley Cup run might not be a goal, a save or even a win.
It might be a show of support.
The Devils met with the media on Wednesday and, to a man, defended forward Steve Bernier for his costly five-minute boarding major that led to three L.A. goals.
Lou Lamoriello: “I’m just so proud of the way [Bernier] handled it after the game and what he said.”
Ilya Kovalchuk: “That fourth line that included Bernie was great and a reason why we were in the Cup Final.”
Peter DeBoer: “Steve was trying to do what we asked him to do and what he was very effective at doing the entire playoffs. I have no negative feelings toward that play.”
This wasn’t the first time the Devs backed Bernier — he said his mates approached him after Game 6 and said the loss wasn’t his fault — but this public re-iteration of support clearly meant a lot to him.
“Everybody in this room has been so nice,” Bernier said. “I didn’t try to do a non-hockey hit or something you don’t usually do on the ice. I played the same way for the season, hitting every chance I got.
“It’s hard to take, but the last thing I need to do is stop hitting next year. I’ve got to play the same way if I want to make the team.”
Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.
OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.
It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.
Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.
In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.
It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.
The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?
“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”
Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.
The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.
Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.
With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.
They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.