The Morning Skate: Can Chicago keep up Quick pressure?

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A quick look at the Western Conference finals and notes from Boston’s win over Pittsburgh.

Game 2: #5 Los Angeles Kings at #1 Chicago Blackhawks, 8 p.m. ET (on NBCSN and live online)Blackhawks lead series, 1-0

In Game 1 last night, the Blackhawks learned that perimeter shooting and net-front presence are the key ingredients to beating Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. Midway through the second period, Patrick Sharp scored off a rebound of a Johnny Oduya slapshot – his league-leading eighth goal of the postseason – and Marian Hossa redirected a Duncan Keith shot from the point less than four minutes later, to lift the Blackhawks past the Kings, 2-1, at the United Center.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville jumbled the top two forward lines before the game, matching the burly Bryan Bickell with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp with Michal Handzus and Patrick Kane. The team responded quickly, outshooting the Kings 17-2 in the first period. For the game, the lines each contributed a goal on a combined 17 shots on goal. Look for those lines to remain intact for Game 2.

The Kings, who came in as the top-hitting team in the league, outhit the Blackhawks, 44-38, in Game 1. However, it was the Blackhawks who seemed to have the more effective hits. Mike Richards took a hard check from Dave Bolland in the last two minutes, and did not return for the final rush. Despite not talking with reporters after the game, Richards is not expected to miss any action. Coach Darryl Sutter quipped in his postgame press conference that he saw his second-line center “arguing with a ref” after the hit.

Jarret Stoll returned to the Kings’ lineup for the first time since Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals (upper-body injury), and won 10-of-19 faceoffs.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Kings fell to 1-6 on the road this postseason (lone win: Game 6 in St. Louis), after going 10-1 during last season’s Stanley Cup run. All six losses have been by 2-1 margins. Their last loss in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final vs. the New Jersey Devils was also by that score.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Boston 3, Pittsburgh 0 (Bruins lead series, 1-0)

David Krejci scored two goals – his sixth and seventh of the postseason – to extend his lead in the NHL scoring race (19 points), and Tuukka Rask stopped all 29 Penguins shots for his first-career postseason shutout, as the Bruins took Game 1 in Pittsburgh, 3-0.

The “HuLK Line” of Nathan HortonMilan Lucic – Krejci continued their torrid scoring pace this postseason, combining for all three goals and three assists. That trio now has 45 points (16 goals), more than each of the the high-flying Penguins’ top two lines, Chris KunitzSidney CrosbyPascal Dupuis (34 points, 18 goals) and James NealEvgeni MalkinJarome Iginla (38 points, 14 goals). The Bruins also won 32-of-48 faceoffs (66.7%), led by Patrice Bergeron (10-for-16) and Chris Kelly (9-for-12), while Crosby (6-for-17), Malkin (one-for-six) and Brandon Sutter (three-for-ten) did not fare as well.

After a week off for both teams following five-game conference semifinal wins, the Penguins tried to set the tone on the physical side. However, the rugged dimension didn’t seem to favor the Pens’ style, and after Matt Cooke took a major penalty for a check from behind on Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid early in the second period, they seemed to lose all offensive flow. (They had only 16 shots on goal in the final 28:28.) Malkin showed his frustration, going after Bergeron at center ice at the end of the second period, while Crosby confronted Rask, then got in an extended shouting match with Zdeno Chara.

In the postgame press conference, Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said he thought his stars should not have let emotions get the better of them: “That’s not something we certainly want to be into. [We] don’t want to make the game that way.  We want to play five-on-five.”

Not only did the Bruins seize home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series. They also snapped an eight-game playoff losing streak to the Penguins. Game 2 is in Pittsburgh on Monday evening, on NBCSN.

DID YOU KNOW?

It was the first time in 97 games over exactly 16 months (February 1, 2012 at Toronto) that the Penguins were shut out, and the first time in 75 games (April 27, 2011 vs. Tampa Bay) that they were blanked on home ice.

Sidney Crosby, who was a -2 during 24:21 of ice time, was shadowed by Patrice Bergeron during 14 of 18 even-strength shifts (TSN). The Pens captain, who played without a face guard under his visor for the first time since breaking his jaw on March 30, was also called for interference on Bergeron in the first period, one of two minor penalties on the night.

LINKS

  • Blackhawks will adjust to quick turnaround [CSN Chicago]
  • Kings on a different road than 2012 [L.A. Times]
  • Sidney Crosby says inconsistent officiating “escalated” physical play [NESN]
  • Reformed Matt  Cooke has relapse in Eastern Conference Final opener [CBC]
  • David Krejci keeps piling up points in big games [Boston Herald]
  • Bruins mess with good thing by bringing back Andrew Ference, and it works [Boston Herald]
  • Healthy scratches feel a part of Penguins’ run [Pittsburgh Tribune]

Lundqvist will start four of five remaining games

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Henrik Lundqvist has had two tough starts since returning from injury.

The 35-year-old allowed five goals in his first game back, a 6-3 loss to Anaheim Sunday, and five more in his second game, a 5-4 OT loss to San Jose Tuesday.

But Lundqvist is still the No. 1 in New York, and for that reason he’s scheduled to start four of the Rangers’ five remaining regular-season games, with the hope he’ll be able to play his way back into form in time for the postseason.

Lundqvist was not happy after Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks, even though the point the Rangers gained earned them a playoff berth.

“I’m extremely disappointed right now,” he told reporters. “I’m glad we’re in, but I want to get the job done. I want the win. We found a way to lose this one at the end.”

With the loss, Lundqvist’s save percentage fell to .911 on the season. If it finishes at that number, it would be the lowest save percentage of his NHL career.

Antti Raanta‘s save percentage, meanwhile, sits at .922. In his last start, he shut out the Kings in Los Angeles.

The Rangers host Pittsburgh tomorrow and Philadelphia Sunday. Next week, they’re in Washington Wednesday, Ottawa Saturday, and then they close out their schedule at home to Pittsburgh Sunday.

Raanta will start one of the final two games.

The Rangers are likely to face Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs.

Reinhart suggests benching him for an entire game might’ve been a stretch

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Two days after Sam Reinhart was bolted to the pine for the entirety of Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to Columbus — his punishment for showing up late to a team stretch — Reinhart discussed the incident, and didn’t sound overly thrilled about how it played out.

“It’s a coach’s decision. It’s a management decision,” Reinhart said, per the Buffalo News. “From my perspective, I would have rather battled it out with my teammates.

“I don’t think five minutes in the morning is going to influence my preparation for a game, but it was a team stretch and I should have been there on time.”

Reinhart also had this to say:

Discipline of this nature is pretty common, though the way Reinhart’s played out was a bit more dramatic. Rather than park him in the press box as a healthy scratch, the Sabres — who didn’t have an extra forward, as Kyle Okposo was out sick — dressed the 21-year-old, then sat him for the entire 60 minutes.

The Buffalo News said the move “would seem to send a deeper message than merely being scratch,” adding that “there has been friction between players and [Sabres head coach Dan] Bylsma throughout the season.”

In the club’s defense, Reinhart is hardly the first young player to be punished for lateness. Nikita Zadorov had repeated issues with punctuality and, after being suspended, was eventually traded to Colorado. Evander Kane was parked for a game last season after sleeping in and missing a practice.

Of course, each situation is unique and some will argue showing up five minutes late for a stretch isn’t on par with what Zadorov and Kane did. Which is fair. That could be why Bylsma said the club might consider a policy change.

And that could by why Reinhart’s teammate, Jack Eichel, tried to put things in perspective.

“We’re obviously not going to hold it over his head here,” Eichel said, per the News. “He didn’t really do too much wrong.”

North Dakota’s Poolman turns pro, signs with Jets

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Another day, another North Dakota departure.

Having already lost freshman Tyson Jost (signed with Colorado) and sophomore Brock Boeser (signed with Vancouver), the school has now learned that junior blueliner Tucker Poolman has signed an entry-level deal with the Jets.

Poolman, 23, was taken by Winnipeg in the fifth round (127th overall) at the ’13 draft. From the Free Press:

UND’s top defenceman was playing between 25 and 30 minutes per game and was the fourth-highest scoring blue-liner in the NCHC. He finished the season with seven goals, 30 points, 14 penalty minutes and a plus-18 rating in 38 games.

Poolman’s final campaign ended on a sour note. He suffered a shoulder injury during the NCHC championship game and was unable to play in North Dakota’s season-ending loss to Boston University in the NCAA championships.

Coming to America: Jackets assign Carlsson to Cleveland

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His Swedish season over, defenseman Gabriel Carlsson is coming to North America to play some hockey.

The Columbus Blue Jackets announced today that Carlsson, the 29th overall pick in the 2015 draft, has been assigned to AHL Cleveland.

From the press release:

Carlsson, 20, recently completed his second full season with Linköping HC in the Swedish Hockey League where he collected two goals and two assists for four points with six penalty minutes and a +8 plus/minus rating in 40 games.

Linköping was eliminated from the SHL playoffs on Tuesday.

Carlsson is listed at 6-4 and 191 pounds.