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]

Blues have ‘wiggle room’ after locking up Parayko

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The St. Louis Blues didn’t break the bank to keep Colton Parayko for five more years, and that’s important since they don’t believe the NHL’s salary cap will rise significantly in the next little while.

Parayko’s cap hit came in at a manageable $5.5 million, as the two sides narrowly avoided an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for today.

“You like to have as much wiggle room as possible,” GM Doug Armstrong said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Now we view the cap will stay flat for the foreseeable future. We’re content with the space we have. We’ll move forward and get ready for training camp.”

The Blues now have a number of key players locked up long term, including Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Steen, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, and Jake Allen.

For Armstrong, the next big decision could involve Paul Stastny, the 31-year-old center who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

But a decision on Stastny doesn’t need to be made now, or even before the season starts. It’s the trade deadline that could be the real pressure point, akin to the Kevin Shattenkirk situation this past year.

Per CapFriendly, the Blues have just over $3 million in cap space, with one roster spot left to fill.

‘Highly unlikely’ Suns will pursue shared arena with Coyotes

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The Arizona Coyotes appear to be on their own in pursuit of a new arena in the Phoenix area.

That’s because Robert Sarver, the owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, says it’s “highly unlikely” he’ll pursue a shared arena with the Coyotes.

Instead, Sarver is focused on upgrading the Suns’ current home (and Coyotes’ old home) in downtown Phoenix, Talking Stick Resort Arena.

From the Arizona Republic:

Sarver said building a new arena would have “maybe made more sense” four or five years ago when the cost estimate was $450 million to $500 million. The costs now, Sarver said, are “significantly higher.” Thus his focus on upgrading Talking Stick, which soon will be the second-oldest arena in the NBA.

“I think it’s the most economically viable alternative for the city and us,” he said. “I like downtown Phoenix. That’s my first preference. I think the NBA is more of an urban game. That’s our demographic.”

Talking Stick Resort Arena, formerly called America West Arena when the Coyotes played there, was designed for basketball and isn’t ideal for hockey. In that way, it’s a lot like Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which hasn’t been a great fit for the Islanders.

The Coyotes recently hired a new president and CEO, Steve Patterson, whose top priority is finding the team a new home in the Phoenix area.

Crosby to celebrate 30th birthday with Stanley Cup in Nova Scotia

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HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) Sidney Crosby will mark his 30th birthday by once again parading the Stanley Cup in his province.

In tweets sent out by the Sidney Crosby Hockey School, Crosby said he would hoist the trophy in the streets of Halifax and Dartmouth as part of an annual civic parade.

“Get ready, the Stanley cup is coming to town!” Crosby confirmed in the tweet sent late Tuesday night. “I will be taking Lord Stanley to the streets Monday August 7th in the Halifax-Dartmouth Natal Day parade.”

The parade, part of annual events that celebrate Halifax’s birthday, also happens to fall on the Pittsburgh Penguins captain’s 30th birthday.

Natal Day chairman Greg Hayward said he expects another 25,000 people will be lining the parade route on top of the roughly 40,000 usual attendees.

“It’s extremely exciting to think that we’re going to have Sid and the Cup in our Natal Day parade,” Hayward said Wednesday.

Crosby has shown off the Stanley Cup twice before in his hometown of Cole Harbour, just outside Dartmouth, in 2009 and 2016.

Last July, Crosby carried the Cup in the back of a pickup that made its way to an arena in Cole Harbour as thousands of cheering fans looked on in sweltering heat.

Arbitration hearing looming for Arvidsson, who broke out in big way last year

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Viktor Arvidsson wants a one-year deal worth $4.5 million, while the Nashville Predators are countering with a two-year deal worth $5.5 million ($2.75 million AAV).

That’s the situation with an arbitration hearing scheduled for Saturday, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

The two sides could still reach a deal before each case is heard.

Arvidsson, 24, broke out in a big way last year, scoring 31 goals during the regular season, then helping the Preds to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

But Nashville needs to be careful with its cap situation, because Ryan Johansen also needs a new contract, and he won’t be cheap to re-sign.

Arvidsson just wrapped up his entry-level contract.