Get to know a draft pick — Cristoval ‘Boo’ Nieves

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All week leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh, we’ll be profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round. Nothing too in-depth. Just enough so you know who they are and what they’re about.

Cristoval Nieves (C)

Height: 6’3 Weight: 184 Shoots: Left

Team: Kent School (HIGH-CT)

Country: United States

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 27 among North American skaters

What kind of player is he?

A speedster with a fair amount of potential as a playmaker, Nieves finished with seven goals and 39 points in 26 games with Kent in 2011-12, something of a disappointment after he got 11 goals and 28 assists in 22 games the year prior. He also had two goals and 10 points in 13 contests with the Indiana Ice of the USHL.

According to NHL.com, Nieves is committed to playing for the University of Michigan next season. That’s for the best as he’s probably not ready to make the jump to the NHL anyways.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, “Boo” is the short form of the “Bugaboo” nickname his parents gave him as a kid.

Quotable:

“Skating is Nieves’s biggest strength as his stride, acceleration, first step quickness and glide are all NHL caliber. He moves effortlessly on the ice and is able to converge on loose pucks as a result. Nieves played Prep School hockey this season so he was not overly tested.

“What was more alarming was his lack of offensive production in his sophomore season as he failed to add to his point totals from his freshman year; his goal production actually dropped. Nieves needs to assert himself more physically and compete harder in front of the goal and along the boards to generate his chances. He is a dimensional skater who passes the puck better than he shoots it.” — David Burstyn, McKeen’s Hockey

More draft profiles:

Nail Yakupov

Filip Forsberg

Malcolm Subban

Ryan Murray

Pontus Aberg

Oscar Dansk

Griffin Reinhart

(Photo courtesy of Rafael Nieves)

Penguins’ Guentzel makes ‘kick save’ to stop Capitals

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It doesn’t get much better than a player making the type of save you’d only expect from a goalie. OK, how about this: when it happens amid the high stakes of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel had already been distinguishing himself with a red-hot scoring start to the postseason, but he made a big difference in a way that won’t show up in the box score (aside from maybe as a blocked shot) for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals.

In one of the few golden opportunities in a notably tight first period, Guentzel made a “kick save” to keep it 0-0. He also managed to avoid giving the Capitals a penalty shot in the process, so this was quite the effort from the impressive rookie.

Video will be added soon. Here’s the moment in GIF form first:

Lundqvist snubs Sens with 21 saves in first (Video)

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You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.

The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.

As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.

In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.

That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.

Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.

Kunitz is in for Penguins vs. Capitals in Game 1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.

So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.

He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:

Foligno, Getzlaf, Giordano vie for Messier Leadership Award

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The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).

In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):

Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone. 

So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.

Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.

Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?