Zdeno Chara

Five Q’s: Bruins-Rangers preview

6 Comments

Can Boston’s defense get healthy?

It’s not clear when injured Bruins defensemen Dennis Seidenberg (lower body), Andrew Ference (foot) and Wade Redden (undisclosed) will be able to play. For Game 1, it appears Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, and recent AHL call-up Torey Krug will be in the lineup. In a related story, no d-man has been forced to play more minutes in the playoffs than Zdeno Chara (202:19). The Bruins blew a golden opportunity to get some much-needed rest when they couldn’t close out the Leafs in five games. It’s possible that could come back to haunt them.

Can the Bruins find some consistency?

They pushed their luck against Toronto, needing a miraculous comeback in the third period of Game 7, then overtime. Before then, B’s coach Claude Julien had lamented his team’s “Jekyll & Hyde” season. As everyone knows, Boston is tough to beat when it plays physical, in-your-face hockey. However, playing that way isn’t easy — you have to really want to pay the price. Perhaps the Bruins can build on their emotional victory over the Leafs. Maybe they just needed to be reminded how good the payoff felt. But if they don’t compete consistently against the Rangers, they’ll be in trouble.

Can Girardi, McDonagh handle the big B’s?

Chara isn’t the only defenseman who can expect to play big, tough minutes in this series. New York’s Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi will also be out there a lot. If the Bruins do compete like they can, they’ll be pounding the Rangers’ top duo every chance they get. “Boston does provide a different look with, I’ve got to say, four good lines,” Girardi said. “They like to play their fourth line a lot, and that line gets on the forecheck and creates momentum that way. I think all four of their lines are pretty dangerous, so it’s on everybody to make sure we shut it down no matter who we’re out there against, kind of like doing the same job, but on everyone.”

Can the Rangers’ big guns deliver?

Their biggest gun is Rick Nash, who led them in goal-scoring during the regular season, with 21. So far in the playoffs, all he’s managed is two assists. Now, that’s not to say he hasn’t come close. He leads the Rangers with 22 shots in the postseason, and he hit the post in Game 2 against the Capitals. “I think the offense will come,” he told Newsday. “I was getting a few chances [Monday], got a few chances [Sunday]. That’s my main goal, trying to help the team win.” Brad Richards, on the other hand, seems less likely to break out. The 33-year-old center with the big contract was demoted to the fourth line against Washington. He did play well at the end of the regular season though, finishing April with 16 points in 14 games.

Can Derick Brassard keep it up?

The 25-year-old center who was acquired from Columbus at the trade deadline had nine points in the first round. Without Brassard, along with linemate Mats Zuccarello, the Rangers might not be playing anymore. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Brassard told NHL.com. “I just feel like I don’t think as much on the ice here, I just play. The way we play the game and the way we manage the puck I think it fits really well with my style. They don’t make me try to play another game. Why I play in the NHL is because I make plays, and now not only is my confidence high, it’s the best I’ve felt in a long time.”

The Predators are on a roll

DENVER, CO - MARCH 05:  Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators awaits a face off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on March 5, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Predators defeated the Avalanche 5-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Getty
2 Comments

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Filip Forsberg scored twice, including the tiebreaking goal in the third, and the Nashville Predators rallied from two goals down to beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 Sunday night.

Forsberg took a pretty feed from Ryan Ellis and one-timed it from the left circle past Darcy Kuemper with 6:36 left to put Nashville up 3-2.

It was Kuemper’s first-career loss in five starts against the Predators, who have won six of seven and wrapped up a five-game road trip with four wins.

Ryan Johansen added an empty netter for Nashville, and James Neal also had a goal. Pekka Rinne stopped 21 shots for Nashville.

Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville scored for the Wild. Kuemper, starting in place of regular starter Devan Dubnyk, had 28 saves as Minnesota fell into a first-place tie with Chicago atop the Western Conference.

Forsberg tied it at 2:20 of the third on a backhander past Kuemper’s stick side.

Minnesota started fast, pulling ahead 2-0 just 7:31 into the game. Granlund scored his 11th just over two minutes in. Pominville added his seventh five minutes later.

But seven games in 10 days appeared to catch up with the Wild in the second as Nashville outshot Minnesota 10-4 in the period and controlled the puck effectively.

Neal pulled the Predators to 2-1 with his team-leading 16th goal of the season 2:25 into the period.

Late letdown costs Canucks versus their old rivals from Chicago

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 22: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrtaes a third period goal against the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center on January 22, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Canucks 4-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty
2 Comments

Sure, the Vancouver Canucks clawed back against an old rival, the Chicago Blackhawks, on Sunday.

But, thanks to a late letdown in regulation, they missed out on a great opportunity to move into a playoff position.

Down a pair of goals in the third period, the Canucks managed to come back in hostile territory. It started with a Troy Stecher power play goal. Bo Horvat, in the lineup two days after getting hit in the back of the head with a slap shot, tied it up for Vancouver just 46 seconds later.

But the chance for at least a single point slipped at the worst possible time, as Jonathan Toews scored with 1:18 left in regulation and then set up an empty net goal from Marian Hossa just a few seconds later to secure the 4-2 win.

The Canucks remain stuck at five wins — just five wins — on the road. They have the 29th-ranked road record in the entire NHL. Only the Arizona Coyotes have been worse away from home ice. So, that’s a problem that needs to be fixed down the stretch.

Vancouver had a chance to move into a wild card spot. Instead, they let the Blackhawks regain momentum as the period went on, and as a result, they remain on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture for right now.

Corey Crawford earned his 200th career win, making 26 saves. That’s a milestone night for him. For Toews, that’s his most productive night of the season, as he factored into all four Chicago goals, which, of course, included the winner.

This has been a difficult year for Toews. He’s been injured. His point production has been down.

Video: Giroux bumps scoring slump to give Flyers the OT win

2 Comments

The Philadelphia Flyers needed a win.

So overtime against the New York Islanders seemed like a perfect time for captain Claude Giroux to bust his scoring slump.

Without a goal in his last 12 games, or since Dec. 21 before the holiday break, Giroux finished the Flyers comeback with an overtime goal to give Philly a 3-2 victory on Sunday. Jakub Voracek did great work along the boards to force a turnover from John Tavares, and Shayne Gostisbehere followed up his chance with a quick pass to a wide-open Giroux at the top of the crease.

That comeback win — Philly trailed by two goals early in the second period — bumps the Flyers back into a wild card spot.

Steve Mason had a big game in net for Philly, with 36 saves, while the Flyers fired 47 shots on goal toward Thomas Greiss, although it’s a difficult task trying to re-set and stop Giroux — an accomplished scorer in the NHL — on the doorstep.

Goals, goals and more goals! Blue Jackets outlast Senators for overtime win

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 19:  Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stops a shot from Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets as Mike Hoffman #68 of the Ottawa Senators skates back on defense during the third period on January 19, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Ottawa defeated Columbus 2-0. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Plenty of goals. A little three-on-three overtime. Seemed like an enjoyable afternoon of hockey between the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Well, maybe the goalies, Mike Condon and Joonas Korpisalo, didn’t enjoy it as much.

The Blue Jackets prevailed for a 7-6 overtime win, with Cam Atkinson scoring just 1:09 into the extra period. That’s his 23rd goal of the season. Only two players — Jeff Carter (24) and Sidney Crosby (28) — have scored more goals than Atkinson this season.

With the win, and the Capitals sitting idle today, the Blue Jackets move back into a tie with Washington at 68 points in the fight for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

There were some anxious moments for Columbus.

Rookie defenseman Zach Werenski was hurt blocking a shot in the third period. He briefly left the game, unable to put any pressure on his right leg as he was helped off.

The good news: He only missed a few minutes, returning late in regulation and for the overtime as well, which is important for the Blue Jackets.

Despite his rookie status, and being a 19-year-old blue liner, Werenski is having an impressive season with six goals and 26 points in 45 games before Sunday.

“The thing that has impressed me the most about him is he’s a bit unflappable,” coach John Tortorella said earlier this season.

“He’s made a couple of huge mistakes in a game and he comes to the bench, shakes it off and then goes out and makes a great play. For a 19-year-old playing that position and the amount of time he’s getting in key situations with this organization, it’s pretty impressive.”