The Morning Skate: Can the Penguins survive?

7 Comments

A quick look at the Eastern Conference finals and notes from the Blackhawks’ road win last night.

Game 4: #1 Pittsburgh Penguins at #4 Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (on NBCSN and live online) – Bruins lead series, 3-0

In Game 3, the Bruins outlasted the Penguins in the longest game of the postseason, when Patrice Bergeron scored 15:19 into the second overtime. Tonight, the B’s will try to sweep the Pens to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three seasons. The Bruins are 5-0 all-time in Game 4s of best-of-seven series at home (13-5 overall) when up three-games-to-none.

The Penguins’ scoring deficiency, after leading the NHL in goals per game during the regular season (3.38) and the first two series this postseason (4.27), has been historic. With only two goals vs. Tuukka Rask and the Bruins, it marks only the second time in franchise history that the Pens have scored two or fewer goals in a three-game stretch in the playoffs (2001 Eastern Conference Final, Games 3-5, vs. New Jersey Devils). The six players with four or more goals coming into the conference final have a combined one (Chris Kunitz, Game 3).

 

FIRST TWO SERIES

THIS SERIES

Player

Goals

Goals

Shots on goal

Shot attempts

Sidney Crosby

7

0

9

17

Pascal Dupuis

7

0

6

15

James Neal

6

0

15

30

Chris Kunitz

4

1

8

17

Evgeni Malkin

4

0

20

34

Jarome Iginla

4

0

4

10

Shot attempts = shots on goal, attempts blocked and missed shots

The top six forwards on the B’s, on the other hand, have had few problems creating offense. The top line of Nathan Horton (two goals, three assists), David Krejci (four goals) and Milan Lucic (three assists) has combined for six goals, while the second line of Brad Marchand (two goals, assist), Patrice Bergeron (two goals, assist) and Jaromir Jagr (three assists) has four.

The Bruins’ only roster change will involve Gregory Campbell, the center on Boston’s “Merlot Line” with Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton. “Soupy” broke his right fibula while blocking a Evgeni Malkin slapshot, and will miss the remainder of the season.

WHO ON EARTH IS … KASPARS DAUGAVIŅŠ?

Perhaps the name is familiar. Kaspars Daugaviņš, the most likely roster replacement (along with Carl Söderberg and Jay Pandolfo) for the injured Gregory Campbell in Game 4, has already suited up for the Bruins this postseason, playing 9:52 in the B’s Game 1 defeat of the Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Doesn’t ring a bell? You remember him from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where he represented Latvia and registered six shots on goal in four games (zero points). Still no? But certainly you’ve seen the most memorable shootout miss (see link) in NHL history, when he was a member of the Ottawa Senators, playing against the Bruins, on March 11.

That daring attempt, which he had first tested in the AHL two seasons earlier, was stopped by the Bruins’ starting goaltender Tuukka Rask. In the Senators’ next game against Boston, he scored his only goal of the 2012-13 season, beating the B’s backup, Anton Khudobin, in what would be his final game in Canada’s capital. On March 26, he was placed on waivers by the Sens and picked up the following day by the Bruins.

DID YOU KNOW?

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have never scored fewer than three points in a playoff series. Crosby had one goal and two assists in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final vs. Detroit, and Malkin had one goal and two assists in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final vs. Detroit and the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Montreal.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

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

Marian Hossa scored 1:10 into the third period – his seventh goal of the postseason – to lift the Blackhawks to a 3-2 victory over the Kings in Game 4. Bryan Bickell (his eighth goal, T-2nd in NHL) and Patrick Kane also scored, as Chicago overcame the absence of top defenseman Duncan Keith (suspension). The Kings, who got goals from Slava Voynov and Dustin Penner, were held to 21 shots on goal, only two in the third period.

The Blackhawks not only took a three-games-to-one series lead; they also snapped the Kings’ franchise-records for most consecutive home wins in the playoffs (nine) and overall (15). Chicago can clinch its 12th Stanley Cup Final berth by defeating Los Angeles at home on Saturday evening, on NBC.

TWEET OF THE DAY

–    Patrick Kane, after he tapped in the 2-2 goal off the goalline that would have been teammate Bryan Bickell’s second of the game (and ninth of the postseason)

LINK

  • Jaromir Jagr demands perfection in the gym [CBC]
  • Today’s brew from Boston mixes beers with biers [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
  • Sushi, the new pre-game wonder meal [Globe and Mail]
  • Bruins the modern-day version of the Broad Street Bullies [The Province]
  • Sidney Crosby’s sister carving out her own hockey path in goal [Canadian Press]

The Leafs’ remaining schedule is no cakewalk

AP
Leave a comment

The Toronto Maple Leafs took care of business last night, sending the floundering Florida Panthers to a 3-2 defeat at Air Canada Centre.

Now comes the hard part for the young Leafs. They have seven games left to book their first playoff appearance since 2013, and their schedule is no cakewalk.

The Leafs’ next three games are all on the road, in Nashville Thursday, Detroit Saturday, and Buffalo Monday. After that, it’s a four-game home stand to close out the schedule, all against formidable opponents: Washington, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Columbus.

With a four-point playoff cushion, the Leafs can afford to lose a few games down the stretch. But head coach Mike Babcock doesn’t want his players looking too far ahead.

“I really believe with our group if we just focus on the day we’re playing and play right, we have a real good chance to win,” Babcock said. “That’s what we talk about and that’s kind of our mantra every day is just play right, play fast and we have an opportunity to be successful. We don’t get all caught up in the race. We know the standings, it’s in the paper every day, so we know that.”

The Leafs today sent goalie Garret Sparks back to the AHL. That can only mean good news for starter Frederik Andersen, who could play Thursday after missing last night’s victory with an upper-body injury.

Backup Curtis McElhinney got the nod against the Panthers, calling it the biggest game of his career. The 33-year-old then went out and made 25 saves to earn the win.

“It was great,” said McElhinney. “Getting a couple of goals in the first period there helped out a little bit and let me settle into it. It was a nice win.”

Parise ‘pretty black and blue’ after Wilson high stick, but injury not serious

3 Comments

Zach Parise looked in bad shape after taking a Tom Wilson high stick to the face in Minnesota’s loss to Washington on Tuesday.

Thankfully for the Wild, Parise’s early diagnosis is a good one.

“He can see and is fine as far as that goes,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said on Wednesday, per the club’s Twitter account. “He’s sore in the upper body. I don’t think he’ll be out long.”

Boudreau went on to add that Parise was “pretty black and blue” and unlikely to play tomorrow, when Minnesota hosts Ottawa. That said, the club expects the 32-year-old to return next week.

It goes without saying that losing Parise is huge. The alternate captain has 17 goals and 37 points through 64 games this year, and is averaging 17:33 TOI per night. And for a Wild team that’s mired in a horrific slump — just three wins in its last 15 games — being down the services of such a vital contributor is costly.

Related: Stewart fought Wilson in response to the high stick

Stamkos ‘getting really close’ to return

Getty
Leave a comment

It probably won’t happen Thursday against the Red Wings, but Steven Stamkos is getting close to making his return for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I think we can start putting him in the day-to-day category right now,” said Bolts coach Jon Cooper, per team beat writer Bryan Burns. “I don’t see him playing against Detroit. After that, I’d say it’s getting really close.”

Stamkos, who hasn’t played since November due to a knee injury, practiced today with his teammates. He took line rushes and even worked with the second-unit power play.

“Today was probably the best day yet,” the captain said. “Doing better than last time we talked and really feeling better each day now.”

Tampa Bay’s next game after Thursday’s is Saturday against Montreal.

The Lightning are three points back of Boston for the second wild-card spot in the East, but they do hold a game in hand on the Bruins.

A challenging offseason awaits Dean Lombardi

Getty
4 Comments

For the 23rd time this season — the most in the NHL — the Los Angeles Kings lost a game in regulation after they outshot an opponent.

It happened last night in Edmonton, where the Kings outshot the Oilers, 35-29, but lost on the scoreboard, 2-1.

Afterwards, captain Anze Kopitar could only express his frustration.

“It seems like we’re beating the dead horse every night,” Kopitar said, per LA Kings Insider. “We outshoot teams, we out-chance teams yet we’re on the other side of the winning part, so bottom line it’s just not good enough. Whether that’s offensively or defensively, we’ve got to be better in both areas.”

It’s mostly offensively. For whatever reason, the Kings have the second-worst shooting percentage (7.6) in the NHL, with only Colorado’s (7.2) being lower.

Perhaps the Kings aren’t getting enough quality shots. Perhaps they don’t have enough quality shooters.

Probably a bit of both.

But it’s something that GM Dean Lombardi will need to address this offseason — assuming he can.

Roster-wise, the big problem for Lombardi is that the Kings have a pair of veteran wingers, Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik, whose contracts look a lot like anchors.

Brown, 32, and Gaborik, 35, have combined for just 21 goals this season. Meanwhile, their combined cap hit is north of $10 million, and there’s plenty of term left on each deal.

Not helping? Both Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are pending RFAs, and they’re in line for raises.

Oh, and there’s not much in the way of top prospects, either. In the past four drafts, only once have the Kings made a first-round pick. (Adrian Kempe went 29th overall in 2014.)

Eleven points back of the second wild-card spot in the West, the Kings are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They’re in Calgary tonight to take on the Flames.

Related: Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski