Marc Staal #18 of the New York Rangers skates against the Washington Capitals in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 6, 2013 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Capitals 4-3.
(May 5, 2013 - Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

Playoffs Tonight: Have Rangers started a comeback vs Capitals?

35 Comments

We got another night full of first-round action ahead of us, including two big Game 5s against teams that have split their series so far.

Please keep in mind that you can watch all these games online in addition to the channels listed below:

Game 4: Toronto Maple Leafs host Boston Bruins (7:00 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Boston leads series 2-1

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ first home playoff game since 2004 was spoiled by the Boston Bruins on Monday. Now the Leafs have to refocus on at least claiming one game at the Air Canada Centre so that the series is tied when they go back to Boston.

One thing the Bruins have done exceedingly well so far is to keep the pressure on 25-year-old goaltender James Reimer. He’s faced a minimum of 37 shots in each game this series and the Bruins consequently lead the league in shots per game in the playoffs.

Reimer has allowed four goals on two separate occasions as a result of that onslaught and the Maple Leafs lost both of those games.

Game 4: New York Rangers host Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Washington leads series 2-1

The New York Rangers got defenseman Marc Staal back from his scary eye injury on Monday and their offense finally woke up en route to a 4-3 victory over Washington. Although Staal didn’t do anything special from a purely statistic perspective in his 2013 postseason debut, his return shouldn’t be overlooked.

“It’s huge. He makes the D-core calm,” Rangers forward Derek Stepan, who netted the game-winning goal, told the New York Post. “He’s got a presence about him that he can just control a game. He did a great job tonight.”

We’ll see if that win marked a turning point in this series or if the Capitals will bounce back and find a way to contain the Rangers’ forwards once more.

Game 5: St. Louis Blues host Los Angeles Kings (9:00 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Series tied at 2-2

The Blues’ two-game lead has been squandered, but the news isn’t all bad for St. Louis.

First off, all four games have been won by the home team and St. Louis has the edge in that department as the fourth seed. Additionally, all four games have been decided by just one goal, so just as they couldn’t claim too much momentum after taking a 2-0 lead, the Kings can’t suggest they have a lot now even after evening the series.

“I don’t think our confidence is shaken here,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If anything, we’re just disappointed with what happened because we know we could have done better.”

It’s also worth noting that Kings forward Jeff Carter got his first goal of the series in Game 4 and he typically scored in bunches during the regular season. If that trend holds true in the playoffs, then Carter might be the difference in this series.

Game 5: Anaheim Ducks host Detroit Red Wings (10:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Series tied at 2-2

There have been two overtime games in this series and Detroit has taken both of them. You might think that’s a sign of their immense playoff experience, and it probably has helped, but the people actually scoring the OT winners have been 23-year-old Gustav Nyquist and rookie Damien Brunner.

A number of Detroit’s younger players have been given sizable roles in this series as the team tries to both simultaneously rebuild and compete after losing several key veterans over the last couple of years.

On the other end, keep an eye on Anaheim’s Corey Perry, who has no goals and just one assist through four games. Perry has been a very effective forward in previous playoff runs and the Red Wings will have a hard time containing him for the remainder of the series.

Patrik Laine to make highly anticipated preseason debut for Jets

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Patrik Laine gives an interview after being selected second by the Winnepeg Jets during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Anticipation has been building since the Winnipeg Jets officially took Patrik Laine with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

On Friday, Laine, the highly coveted Finnish forward, will make his preseason debut for the Jets when they play the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg, as the home fans get the chance to take in the occasion.

The Jets have done a nice job of amassing good young forwards in their organization. Laine, who has the gifts to be a prolific scorer in the NHL, is at the top of that prospect list.

Winnipeg’s roster tonight also includes forward prospects Kyle Connor, Nic Petan and Brandon Tanev, not to mention more NHL experienced forwards like Alex Burmistrov, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.

Laine enters this season with high expectations placed on him from fans and media, after coming to the NHL following a standout career in Finland as a teenager. He’s aware of the expectations, but toned down the hype with the usual statements of just playing his game.

“Just be brave on the ice and show everybody I will earn my spot on the team,” he told reporters.

Laine has already seen game action this month. Not with the Jets, but with Finland’s entry at the World Cup of Hockey.

Following offseason knee surgery, Laine wasn’t happy with his performance in Finland’s first pre-tournament game. In three tournament games, Laine failed to register a point, despite a team-best 10 shots on goal, as Finland was quickly eliminated in the round robin.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Patrik Laine

Murray: Ristolainen’s good-faith gesture unlikely to sway talks with Sabres

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Rasmus Ristolainen #55 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a pass during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
Getty

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray tells The Associated Press he doesn’t believe defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen‘s decision to join the team for practice without a contract will have any effect on thawing negotiations.

With a big laugh, Murray on Friday said the only way Ristolainen could speed up contract talks is if “he got all lovey-dovey” and elected to take the Sabres’ latest offer.

Ristolainen is a restricted free agent whose rights were retained by the Sabres in June. After representing Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, Ristolainen reported to the Sabres on Thursday in what was regarded as a sign of good faith.

Though he’s not allowed to play because he’s not under contract, Ristolainen is practicing with the team and also taking part in meetings. Ristolainen is not making himself available to reporters.

Murray says he didn’t see anything wrong with allowing Ristolainen to practice, saying he’d rather the player be in Buffalo than working out elsewhere.

Murray says the two sides are still negotiating.

In three seasons, Buffalo’s 2013 first-round draft pick has established himself as the Sabres’ top defenseman. Last year, Ristolainen led the team in averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game, and led Buffalo defensemen with 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists).

Contract coming? Rakell’s agent negotiating ‘frequently’ with Anaheim

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Rickard Rakell #67 of the Anaheim Ducks skates during a game against the Vancouver Canucks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

More updates from Anaheim, the land of contractual impasses…

Rickard Rakell, the still-unsigned RFA forward, sounds as though he’s closer to an extension with the Ducks than teammate Hampus Lindholm, who’s working out in Sweden.

From the O.C. Register:

Rakell has yet to resume his training after being unable to play for his homeland in the World Cup of Hockey. But it is believed that while the Ducks would prefer to stay lower than Rakell’s six-year, $24 million asking price, they’ve made more headway with the center’s agent, Peter Wallen.

In an e-mail to the Register, Wallen confirmed as much while saying Rakell has slowly started to work out again and will need “a couple of weeks” to get back in top shape. “Back negotiating,” Wallen said. “More frequently now.”

Rakell finished fourth on the Ducks in scoring last year, with 20 goals and 43 points, and led the team in game-winning markers. His emergence over the last two seasons — he had 31 points in 73 contests in ’14-15 — his age (only turned 23 in May) and his versatility (can play center or right wing) are the big reasons why he’s angling for a significant payday.

For Anaheim, it’s one of those problems teams wish they had.

Though they’re stretched thin financially, the Ducks have an arsenal of good young talent up front that will eventually replace the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. Rakell is chief among them, and he’ll soon be followed by the likes of Nick Ritchie, Nick Sorensen, Julius Nattinen and both of the club’s first-round picks at this year’s draft — Max Jones and Sam Steel.

The key, of course, is keeping all those young guys in the fold.

And that starts with Rakell.

Related: Lindholm seeking eight-year deal from ducks, at least $6M per

Schwartz injury increases focus on Blues who could step up

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 24:  Ty Rattie #18 of the St. Louis Blues passes around Trevor van Riemsdyk #57 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on January 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 2-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

It was already going to be interesting to watch the St. Louis Blues without David Backes and Troy Brouwer.

Then came today’s news that they’ll be without Jaden Schwartz for at least the first two weeks of the regular season.

Now the focus really turns to players like Ty Rattie, the 23-year-old winger who’s piled up the points in the AHL but still has to establish himself as a regular NHLer.

Can he help fill the void?

“It’s him, it’s (Kenny) Agostino, it’s (Samuel) Blais, it’s (Magnus) Paajarvi,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, per In The Slot. “These are guys that, man, they can make our team be a little bit different here, quite a bit different and really be one of those teams where we’re dangerous right throughout our lineup if they can make the grade.”

Backes had 21 goals last season, while Brouwer chipped in 18. The Blues did partially answer their departures with the David Perron signing, but they’ll need others to step up as well. That includes veteran Alex Steen, whose goal totals have fallen from 33 to 24 to 17 in three consecutive seasons, and 20-year-old Robby Fabbri, who had 18 goals last season as a rookie, but has the talent to score more. Paul Stastny only had 10 goals last season. He can do better.

Schwartz, too, will need to stay healthy when he returns. He only played 33 games last season after fracturing his ankle in October. He has to be doubly frustrated after sustaining yet another injury in practice.

And, of course, Vladimir Tarasenko will need to keep scoring. He had 40 goals last season, the fourth most in the NHL. Any falloff there would hurt.

The Blues finished 2015-16 with 107 points, then made it all the way to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001. They still consider themselves Stanley Cup contenders.

But first things first, they have to get back into the playoffs.

“This is my sixth season in the Central Division and this looks like the most challenging year yet,” Hitchcock told The Associated Press yesterday. “The crunching between the top and bottom started last year, and it’s going to be closer this year.”