Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron

Five Q’s: Penguins-Bruins preview

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How will the Bruins defend the Penguins?

Pittsburgh has been far and away the highest-scoring team in the 2013 playoffs. In 11 games, the Penguins have averaged 4.27 goals, more than a goal more than the sec0nd-best offensive team, Boston (3.17). Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will be the two main areas of focus for the Bruins, with Patrice Bergeron, one of the best defensive forwards in the game, likely getting the Crosby assignment, and Zdeno Chara, one of the top shutdown defensemen, getting Malkin’s line (that also includes James Neal and Jarome Iginla). “You play this game to play against the best,” said Bergeron. “This is going to be a great challenge.”

Are the Penguins really the obvious favorites?

Boston forward Brad Marchand seems to think they are: “Obviously, they are the favorites. They have some guys that are very skilled and very talented, and they have the two best players in the world…and then you add Iginla.” But there are other areas where the Bruins may have an advantage. Despite all the goals the Penguins have scored in the playoffs, they’ve looked lost in their own end at times, particularly in the first round against the Islanders. The Bruins have big, powerful forwards that can make it tough on defenders to gain control and break the puck out, so that will be a challenge for Kris Letang and the rest of Pittsburgh’s blue-liners. Also, while Tomas Vokoun has played extremely well in relief of Marc-Andre Fleury in goal, nobody would be shocked if Boston’s Tuukka Rask outplayed his 36-year-old counterpart in this series.

Can the Bruins stay out of the box?

They’d be wise to try, given Pittsburgh’s power play has scored 13 times in the playoffs. Boston has been relatively disciplined through the first two rounds, but the skill and strength of the Pittsburgh forwards often leads teams to commit fouls against them. The Penguins may also try to goad the Bruins into retaliatory penalties. “Discipline is going to be a must in this series because they thrive on their power plays, and somehow they seem to get some every game,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “We know how things are with us as far as a team. It’s tough to get power plays and we end up killing more than we end up having, power plays. We’re going to have to be extremely disciplined.”

Which deadline addition will make the biggest difference — Jarome Iginla or Jaromir Jagr?

A storyline made even more interesting after Iginla chose Pittsburgh over Boston. (Oh, and didn’t Jagr play for the Penguins at one time?) Based purely on goals and assists, the former Calgary captain has been the better player in the postseason. Iginla has scored four times and added eight helpers, while Jagr is still waiting for his first tally and has just four assists. To be fair, though, Jagr has been skating with less offensively gifted linemates for much of the playoffs, and he hasn’t had the best of luck, failing to ripple the mesh despite 36 shots. “I think it’s unfortunate that his numbers don’t reflect his play,” Julien said.

Can Torey Krug keep doing what he did against the Rangers?

The AHL call-up extraordinaire scored four times in the second round, three of them on the power play, which had been an area of extreme concern for the Bruins. “We’ve watched him play, we’ve watched the tape,” said Pens coach Dan Bylsma, “but he adds an element to the team that really hasn’t been an element for the Boston Bruins over the last couple of years, even going back to their Stanley Cup year. The element for him, skating for his team in the neutral zone that he’s added the last series, him at the blue line, his mobility across the blue line, his shot, that’s something we haven’t quite seen.”

 

Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 15: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers shares a laugh with teammate Antti Raanta #32 after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-2 in NHL action on November 15, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.

Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).

Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:

Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.

Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 01:  Boone Jenner #38 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the go ahead goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.

For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.

They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.

Columbus is now at 16-5-4, giving them 36 standings points. They’re once again in breathing distance of leading the Metro Division when you consider games in hand.

Update: Here’s how the standings look after the Rangers beat the Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

That’s a stout division, and the Blue Jackets remain shockingly effective. Then again, with results like these over and over again, it might be time to merely expect such impressive work.

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For Detroit, it was a rough night. Jonathan Ericsson couldn’t play, Mike Green was a little banged up and Petr Mrazek was pulled for Jimmy Howard. This goal summarized some of their struggles:

Blues blaze through Devils, even in New Jersey

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) Brad Hunt #77, Robby Fabbri #15 and Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues celebrate Fabri's first period goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 9, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.

On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.

It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.

This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.

That’s impressive stuff.

This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:

The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”

Oh yeah, don’t forget about Jake Allen, either.

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Update: The Wild were able to shake off that goal, ultimately beating the Oilers 3-2 via a shootout.