Hossa

The Morning Skate: Will Hossa and Hawks close out Kings?

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Previewing tonight’s Western Conference finals matchup and news and notes from Boston’s series-clinching win.

Game 5: #5 Los Angeles Kings at #1 Chicago Blackhawks, 8 p.m. ET (watch on NBC and live online) – Blackhawks lead series, 3-1

The Blackhawks will look to clinch their 12th trip to the Stanley Cup Final when they host the Kings at the United Center. Chicago is 8-1 at home this postseason, while Los Angeles is 1-7 away from home.

As Marian Hossa goes this postseason, so go the Blackhawks. Chicago is 6-0 when Hossa scores a goal, and 10-1 when he registers a point. In Game 4, his goal at 1:10 of the third period provided the winning margin in a 3-2 victory at Staples Center. Bryan Bickell, who leads the Hawks with eight goals this postseason, has at least one point in every game this series (three goals, two assists).

The Kings, who have won their last three Game 5s on the road when facing elimination (2001 and 2002 at Colorado, 2011 at San Jose), will need to increase their sense of urgency if they are to repeat that feat during their Cup defense year, and avoid elimination against the Presidents’ Trophy winners. It starts with captain Dustin Brown and the team’s leading scorer during the regular season, Anze Kopitar, who have combined for zero points and six shots on goal this series. Goaltender Jonathan Quick must also play better than he did during his last appearance at the United Center (Game 2), when he allowed four goals on only 17 shots and was pulled after 9:20 of the second period.

Duncan Keith, who leads all Blackhawks defensemen with ten points (one goal, nine assists), will return to the lineup after a one-game suspension for high-sticking Jeff Carter in the face in Game 3. Carter’s regular linemate, Mike Richards, will miss his fourth consecutive game with concussion-like symptoms.

If the Blackhawks win, they will claim the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl for the second time in four seasons and host Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final vs. the Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins. If the Kings win, the series will return to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Monday evening, on NBCSN.

DID YOU KNOW?

22 of Marian Hossa’s 43 career postseason goals (51.2%) have put his team ahead in a game. Among players with 40+ goals, only Stephane Richer (29 of 53, 54.7%), Dale Hunter (22 of 42, 52.4%) and Mike Modano (30 of 58, 51.7%) have a higher percentage of goals that put their teams in the lead. (Elias)

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Boston 1, Pittsburgh 0 (Boston wins series, 4-0)

The Boston Bruins finished a stunning sweep of the #1-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins with Friday’s 1-0 victory. Adam McQuaid scored his second goal of this postseason 5:01 into the 3rd period. It was the 15th goal of the postseason by a Bruins’ defensemen, most by any team in the 2013 playoffs. Goaltender Tuukka Rask made 24 saves for his second shutout of the series.

It is the Bruins 19th Stanley Cup Final appearance, and second in the last three seasons. For right wing Jaromir Jagr, it will be his third Cup Final, his first since 1992, when he was a member of the Penguins.

Meanwhile, the Penguins were swept in a series for the first time since 1979, when the Bruins defeated them in four games in the NHL Quarterfinals. Pittsburgh was shut out twice in a series for the first time since the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, and after going a combined 13-for-46 (28.3%) on the power play in the first two rounds, Dan Bylsma’s crew was held without a goal on 15 chances with the man advantage in the conference final.

Rask and the Bruins defense were near historic. They allowed just two goals in their series against the highest-scoring team in the regular season (3.38 goals/game) and first two rounds (4.27). Boston tied for the second-fewest goals allowed in a playoff series of 4 games or more. (Elias).

FEWEST GOALS ALLOWED IN A SERIES OF 4 GAMES OR MORE

Year, Round Team

Goals allowed

Opponent Series result
2003, WCF Mighty Ducks

1

Wild Anaheim won, 4-0
2013, ECF Bruins

2

Penguins Boston won, 4-0
2002, ECQF Senators

2

Flyers Ottawa won, 4-1
1952, SCF Red Wings

2

Canadiens Detroit won, 4-0
1935, SF Maple Leafs

2

Bruins Toronto won, 3-1

WCF = Western Conference Final                    ECQF/ECF = Eastern Conference Quarterfinals/Final

SCF = Stanley Cup Final                                    SF = NHL Semifinal

DID YOU KNOW?

Three of the four goal-scorers in 1-0 games this postseason have been defensemen.

Goal-scorer Team Game, Time of goal Opponent Winning goaltender
Mike Green (D) Capitals ECQF, Game 2, 8:00 (OT) Rangers Braden Holtby
Slava Voynov (D) Kings WCQF, Game 3, 4:56 (2nd) Blues Jonathan Quick
Derick Brassard Rangers ECQF, Game 6, 9:39 (2nd) Capitals Henrik Lundqvist
Adam McQuaid (D) Bruins ECF, Game 4, 5:01 (3rd) Penguins Tuukka Rask

WCQF = Western Conference Quarterfinals      ECQF = Eastern Conference Quarterfinals    ECF = Eastern Conference Final

LINKS

  • Corey Crawford gives Blackhawks a chance to win every night [Globe and Mail]
  • Chicago has gone from “Big Buff” to “Bicks” in three years [CSN Chicago]
  • Michal Rozsival helps keep clamp on Kings [Chicago Sun Times]
  • Adam McQuaid: From hospital bed to hero [Boston Herald]
  • Jaromir Jagr full of perspective as sacrifices rewarded with trip to Cup Final [NESN]
  • Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin silenced again in season-ending loss [Pittsburgh Tribune]

Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

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Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

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People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

“He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

Is this time different?

Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percenate in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

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For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

(It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.

Blue Jackets move back to first in Metro, NHL after beating Hurricanes

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 7:  Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to the start of the game against the New York Rangers on January 7, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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After stumbling for a bit, Tuesday was a reassuring night for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus moved back to the top of the Metropolitan Division (and thus, the NHL) because they now match the Washington Capitals’ 64 points but have more wins (30 to 29) and hold a game in hand.

Also comforting for Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the Blue Jackets net, allowing one goal on 25 shots.

They were probably also happy to see Brandon Dubinsky enjoy a strong night (two goals) and Boone Jenner collect an assist and this absolute beauty of a goal:

The Hurricanes actually did hold a 1-0 lead in this game, but it lasted all of 11 seconds, as that Jenner goal erased that advantage.

The Blue Jackets face the Senators in Columbus on Thursday and then host the Hurricanes once again on Saturday. They follow that up with five straight road games and six of seven away from home beginning on Jan. 22. Columbus will pass another big test if they can stick with the Capitals and the rest of the NHL’s best through that stretch.