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The Morning Skate: ‘HuLK Line’ thriving for Bruins

A quick look at the Eastern Conference finals and notes from Los Angeles’ big Game 3 victory vs. Chicago.

Game 3: #1 Pittsburgh Penguins at #4 Boston Bruins, 8 ET (NBCSN) – Bruins lead series, 2-0

Having outscored the top-seeded Penguins 9-1 so far this series, the Bruins will look to take a three-games-to-none lead tonight at TD Garden.

The Bruins have exhibited incredible balance this entire postseason, but it is the top line of Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton that has led the way. The “HuLK Line” has combined for five goals and 10 points this series, adding to its league lead in goals (18) and points (49) by a line. In Game 2, a 6-1 Boston win, each member of the second line (Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Jaromir Jagr) had two points, and Johnny Boychuk scored his fifth goal of the postseason, tied with the Kings’ Slava Voynov for the most by a defenseman. With his team playing “the best hockey we’ve played so far this year,” B’s coach Claude Julien is not expected to mess with success by making any roster moves.

Although reiterating during his off-day press conference that his team’s “mental focus” and “mindset” are the areas that need the most improvement, Pens coach Dan Bylsma promised some lineup and combination changes for Game 3. (Those changes have not been confirmed at time of press.) However, those changes will not likely involve goaltenders Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury. In Game 2, Vokoun allowed three goals on 12 shots before being replaced by Fleury, who was not any better, allowing three goals on 17 shots. For Fleury, it was his first action since May 7, when he gave up six goals to the Islanders in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

PENGUINS GOALIES in BOSTON (career)

  • Tomas Vokoun (w/NSH, FLA, WSH, PIT): 5-5-1, 2.58 GAA, .924 save %, shutout
  • Marc-Andre Fleury: 5-1-1, 1.94 GAA, .939 save %

DID YOU KNOW?

Jaromir Jagr is 11th all-time in career postseason goals (78) and assists (117). Three goals and six assists came in the 1991 and 1992 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Boston, as a member of the Penguins (10 games). Two assists have come in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final vs. Pittsburgh, as a member of the Bruins (two games).

WHO ON EARTH IS … JUSSI JOKINEN?

Only one player who has suited up for the Penguins in both games this series vs. the Bruins has not been on the ice for any of Boston’s nine goals: Jussi Jokinen. The fourth-line center, who came over from Carolina as the Pens’ fourth and final trade acquisition during a busy period before the trade deadline, had a hand in all three goals (goal, two assists) the last time Pittsburgh visited Boston, a 3-2 win on April 20.

Since his first NHL season, the 30-year-old Finn, who was born on April 1, has made a name for himself by making opposing goaltenders “look like fools” on shootouts. He started out a perfect nine-for-nine when the game-deciding one-on-one was instituted before his rookie year (2005-06), and his 31 shootout goals (in 67 attempts) are tied for third all-time with Brad Boyes, behind Pavel Datsyuk (33) and Zach Parise (32). His 46.3% success rate is fourth all-time among players with 25 or more goals, behind Frans Nielsen (55.6%), Jonathan Toews (49.1%) and Parise (46.4%).

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Los Angeles 3, Chicago 1 – Blackhawks lead series, 2-1

Team

Shots (goals)

Even-strength shots (goals)

Series, Game Opponent Result
Kings

16 (2)

16 (2)

WCQF, Game 6 vs. Blues W, 2-1
Kings

18 (2)

15 (1)

WCSF, Game 7 vs. Sharks W, 2-1
Maple Leafs

20 (1)

16 (0)

ECQF, Game 1 at Bruins L, 4-1
Blackhawks

20 (1)

17 (1)

WCF, Game 3 at Kings L, 3-1
Blackhawks

20 (1)

18 (0)

WCSF, Game 2 vs. Red Wings L, 4-1
Kings

20 (2)

20 (2)

WCSF, Game 1 vs. Sharks W, 2-0

WCQF = Western Conference Quarterfinals   ECQF = Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

WCSF = Western Conference Semifinals   WCF = Western Conference Final

 LINKS

  • Five reasons the Bruins are dominating the Penguins [Boston Globe]
  • Penguins hope to draw from 2009 Stanley Cup run [CBC]
  • Sidney Crosby at center of any potential Penguins comeback [Globe and Mail]
  • Goal may have been fluke, but Slava Voynov isn’t [L.A. Times]

‘It looks like a disaster’ — Senators could be facing more injury problems

BOSTON, MA - MAY 27:  Head coach Guy Boucher of the Tampa Bay Lightning speaks to the media after their 0 to 1 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 27, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Not only did the Ottawa Senators lose on Sunday, but three different forwards left the game because of injury.

And that was after they had already lost forward Bobby Ryan indefinitely because of a hand injury. In a 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the Senators had Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Tommy Wingels leave with injuries.

Hoffman suffered a lower-body injury in the first period, while Stone was caught with a hit to the head from defenseman Jacob Trouba. That infraction might result in Trouba getting further supplementary discipline from the NHL.

“Tough day with the loss of Bobby and then we lost another bunch of guys. At some point I felt, there was nobody on the bench,” said Senators coach Guy Boucher, who appeared furious with the officials’ decision to give Trouba only a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.

“I can give you an update – it doesn’t look good. We have to wait until tomorrow to be clear and precise about all these guys.

“Right now, we could be losing quite a few guys … It looks like a disaster. We’ll see tomorrow and maybe the disaster is not as bad as we think but you’ve got to be ready for anything.”

What especially hurts for the Senators is that Hoffman, Stone and Ryan are three very capable offensive players, and if all three are out long-term, that’s a good chunk of scoring suddenly gone from their lineup. Stone leads the team with 22 goals, while Hoffman is tied for second in that category with Kyle Turris at 19 goals.

The Senators had a chance to take over top spot in the Atlantic Division. With a win, Ottawa would’ve tied Montreal with 70 points, but taken first in the division because of fewer games played.

Blackhawks snap Sabres winning streak

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The Eastern Conference playoff race is tightening up, especially when it comes to the wild card.

The Buffalo Sabres, thanks to a three-game winning streak and six wins in their last 10 games prior to Sunday, have suddenly jumped right into the thick of that race. But with a chance to win four in a row and tie, at least temporarily, the Bruins at 64 points, the Sabres ran into the Chicago Blackhawks.

And that proved problematic.

After Evander Kane scored the equalizer with 5.6 seconds left in the first period, Chicago took over through the second half of the game, scoring four unanswered goals for a 5-1 victory to move within seven points of the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division.

Patrick Kane put a stamp on this one. Given an absurd amount of time in front, Kane was able to put on a stickhandling clinic before beating Robin Lehner on the backhand.

It further hurt Buffalo’s cause that it was unable to capitalize on a lengthy five-on-three in the first period.

“I thought our opportunity was that 5-on-3, to get not just one goal, maybe two. We gave them too much,” said coach Dan Bylsma, per the Sabres.

The Sabres now enter their bye week. They play the last-place Colorado Avalanche next Saturday. The time off might provide a rest in the middle of a grinding season, but teams have struggled immediately out of the break and the Sabres can ill afford a set back in the playoff race.

Video: On Hockey Day in America, Auston Matthews did this . . .

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11:  Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on November 11, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Flyers 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Born in Scottsdale, AZ., Auston Matthews has taken the NHL by storm in his rookie season as an elite talent headlining an impressive freshman class.

Taken first overall last June, Matthews made history with four goals in his debut, surely a dizzying experience for Maple Leafs fans accustomed to heartbreak and frustration. And he really hasn’t slowed down since.

On Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes — and on Hockey Day in America — the 19-year-old Matthews once again put on a show, scoring his 28th goal of the season. That gave Toronto a two-goal lead.

As he’s often done in his brief time in the NHL, this goal was of the spectacular variety, as he broke in off the left wing and, as he was getting hauled down to the ice, slid the puck five-hole on Cam Ward.

Related: Auston Matthews is having a rookie season for the ages

Video: After a slow start, Evander Kane is on a roll for the Sabres

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For about a month now, Evander Kane has enjoyed a particularly productive stretch for the Buffalo Sabres.

Kane scored with 5.6 seconds remaining in the first period of Sunday’s game versus the Chicago Blackhawks, converting on a nifty pass from Jack Eichel and going top shelf on Scott Darling.

He now has goals in three straight games, and 15 points in 14 games as the Sabres have fought their way back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.

Of course, this latest run comes just before the trade deadline, and Kane’s name has consistently been in speculation about a possible move — in addition to off-ice issues. While GM Tim Murray has said earlier this month that he’s not actively shopping Kane, he also didn’t absolutely rule out trading the 25-year-old left winger, now into his second season in Buffalo.

(Murray: “Is there a crazy deal that somebody could throw at me that would force me to do it? I guess there is.”)

Most impressive about Kane’s numbers — remember he missed time earlier this season with a rib injury and then had a slow start, which drew the ire of the coach — is that he’s done the vast majority of his scoring, 20 of 21 goals, at five-on-five.