Playoffs Tonight: Have Rangers started a comeback vs Capitals?

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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.

Busy Blackhawks bring back Pokka, reportedly let Rasmussen walk

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A busy off-season for the Chicago Blackhawks continued with some smaller moves that may still surprise some.

The eyebrow-raiser, at least in some quarters, came when the Blackhawks decided not to hand Dennis Rasmussen a qualifying offer, thus allowing the 26-year-old forward to hit free agency. That news comes from The Athletic’s Scott Powers.

Rasmussen played in 68 games last season (along with three playoff contests), receiving almost 12 minutes of ice time per night. Both were examples of him seeing more of a role in his second year with Chicago.

Still, he didn’t put up big numbers at either the AHL or NHL level, so apparently the Blackhawks decided to spring him free. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports that the team might have soured on Rasmussen after he rejected an offer for a contract extension back in March.

Powers also notes that Ville Pokka was signed to a one-year deal, opening the door for him to possibly make Chicago’s roster.

These developments aren’t likely to add to what’s already been a frustrating off-season for Joel Quenneville in particular, but this still lines up with a pattern of changes. In the latest edition of “30 Thoughts,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman shares some details of Coach Q’s irritation:

21. Joel Quenneville was at the draft Saturday after not appearing on Friday. He stormed out of a coach’s meeting — in full view of reporters — as news broke of the Chicago trades. It would have been very tough for him to lose Hjalmarsson, one of the NHL’s underappreciated great players.

Quenneville’s cage was already rattled by the firing of assistant Mike Kitchen, so here’s hoping he at least signed off on these latest moves.

Report: Red Wings grant Coyotes permission to interview Todd Nelson

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There’s some activity as far as the Arizona Coyotes’ coaching situation goes, and soon there may be some answers.

As noted during the weekend, the Coyotes were interested in speaking with Todd Nelson, who most recently coached the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings’ AHL affiliate) to a Calder Cup victory. The Red Wings granted Arizona permission to interview Nelson, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James.

(Red Wings fans are greeting this news with despair.)

It’s not the only noteworthy development, either, as the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan reports that the Coyotes parted ways with associate coach Jim Playfair today. (The Coyotes confirmed the news moments after this post went up.)

This is a time of change for this organization, and some are bristling at the way they’re handling things. Still, there’s also an argument that the team is ultimately making wise choices, and Nelson could end up being a big part of that.

Assuming they convince him to come on board, of course.

Gryba sticks with Edmonton on two-year, $1.8 million deal

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After spending the last two seasons with the Oilers, Eric Gryba has signed on for two more.

Gryba, the veteran blueliner that was set to go unrestricted on Saturday, has signed a two-year, $1.8 million extension with Edmonton, per TSN. The deal comes after the 29-year-old appeared in 40 games for the Oilers last year, and three during the club’s playoff run.

Gryba is the second UFA blueliner Edmonton has re-upped with, having previously inked Kris Russell to a four-year, $16 million pact. It’s the byproduct of available cap space GM Peter Chiarelli created by shipping out Jordan Eberle to the Islanders in exchange for Ryan Strome.

It’s likely Gryba will continue to play his existing role in Edmonton — a physical, hard-nosed depth defenseman that won’t play every night, but can jump into the lineup in case of injury or when the Oilers face a particular matchup.

This move also gives the Oilers seven defensemen under contract for next season: Gryba, Russell, Andrej Sekera (who could miss extensive time with a torn ACL), Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Matthew Benning and Darnell Nurse.

So, perhaps Chiarelli isn’t done signing blueliners.

 

 

Report: Kings in contact with Joe Thornton

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Yesterday, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported 12 teams were in contact with San Jose’s Joe Thorton who, on Saturday, will become an unrestricted free agent.

Now, it’s been revealed that one of those teams is also one of San Jose’s biggest rivals — the Los Angeles Kings.

Per LA Kings Insider, the Kings have “been in contact” with Thornton, who just wrapped the last of a three-year, $20.25 million deal with a $6.75M average annual cap hit.

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On top of Thornton’s abilities are his relationships with key figures in Los Angeles’ front office. He played with Kings General Manager Rob Blake in San Jose, while Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Development Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager when he played in Boston.

On top of these relationships, Thornton also remains very close with Glen Murray, a figure in Los Angeles’ player development, and I’m told the two, who played together with the Bruins for three and a half seasons, regularly communicate.

LeBrun reported that staying with the Sharks remains Thornton’s No. 1 option, but it’s pretty clear interest in him is sky-high — and coming from a number of different places.

Los Angeles has been making moves to clear cap space, recently buying out the remainder of defenseman Matt Greene’s contract. The Kings also lost blueliner Brayden McNabb to Vegas at the expansion draft.

What happens with Marian Gaborik‘s $4.875M cap hit remains to be seen. The veteran winger underwent an offseason procedure for a “chronic” knee issue and, depending on his recovery, could open the year on long-term injured reserve.

Thornton would give L.A. a formidable one-two punch at center along with Anze Kopitar (and a truly formidable 1-2-3 punch with Kopitar and Jeff Carter, for that matter). It’s also worth noting that as he’s gotten longer in the tooth, Thornton has successfully platooned as a winger — most notably during San Jose’s Stanley Cup run in 2016.