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]

Canucks avoid arbitration with Boucher, Horvat remains RFA

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The Vancouver Canucks still have some work to do this summer, but at least none of their players will take part in salary arbitration hearings.

After coming to an agreement with Michael Chaput, the Canucks reached a one-year, $687,500 deal with forward Reid Boucher on Monday.

Boucher, 23, has 112 regular-season games under his belt. He spent most of his career (82 of 112 games) with the New Jersey Devils before bouncing to the Nashville Predators (3 games) and then the Canucks (27 games) last season. He averaged a little more than 12 minutes per night with the Canucks, much like with the Devils in 2016-17.

While the arbitration hearings are covered, the Canucks face two lingering RFA situations: Brendan Gaunce, and most importantly, Bo Horvat.

Coyotes sign Langhamer, so only Duclair needs a deal

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The Arizona Coyotes handed a one-year, two-way contract to goalie Marek Langhamer on Monday.

Langhamer would be paid $660K at the NHL level and $67,500 in the AHL, according to AZ Sports’ Craig Morgan.

Langhamer turned 23 on Saturday. He got about the smallest cup of coffee you could ask for with the Coyotes last season: he appeared in one game for 16 minutes, allowing a goal on eight shots.

It was quite the year for the Czech-born goalie, who played seven games in the ECHL and 25 in the AHL along with that brief NHL appearance. He also played in the AHL and ECHL during the 2015-16 season, so he’s been bouncing around.

As a seventh-rounder (184th overall in 2012), Langhamer likely doesn’t take opportunities for granted.

The netminding situation is interestingly fluid in Arizona. Both Antti Raanta and Louis Domingue stand ahead of Langhamer – at minimum – but those two only have one year remaining on their current deals. If nothing else, there’s likely a “prove it” vibe at multiple levels now that Mike Smith is in Calgary.

With Langhamer settled, the Coyotes only have one RFA left to sign, but it’s a tricky one with forward Anthony Duclair. When it came to Duclair, GM John Chayka kept it pretty vague with the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan.

“We’re still trying to determine the best value for the player and the team moving forward,” Chayka said.

Predators are one Johansen deal away from a salary cap work of art

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If you need to kill some time, play this game: which Nashville Predators contract is the biggest steal?

If Viktor Arvidsson is as much of a difference-maker as his limited NHL reps indicate, his $4.25 million cap hit over seven years is certainly in the running. Still, there are plenty of choices.

  • The defense alone is bargain-filled, making P.K. Subban‘s $9 million cap hit easy to stomach.

Ryan Ellis‘ $2.5 million cap hit doesn’t run out until after 2018-19. Mattias Ekholm‘s less of a “well-kept secret” following Nashville’s run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, yet his $3.75M steal runs through 2021-22. Roman Josi can be a bit polarizing but at $4M for three more seasons, it’s not controversial to say that he’s probably at least worth the money.

  • The offensive bargains begin with the top line.

Arvidsson has the makings of a legit first-line winger, and that deal is highly likely to be regrettable … for his agent and accountant.

Filip Forsberg‘s $6M isn’t as audacious as some of those defensive steals, but it’s still pretty nice. That total also makes it easier for the Predators to try to control costs for their one remaining big consideration: Ryan Johansen, who still needs a deal as an RFA.

  • Calle Jarnkrok is a pretty nifty get at $2M per season, especially if he grows with a contract that runs through 2021-22.
  • Scott Hartnell took quite the homecoming discount at $1M for 2017-18.
  • As you go deeper, the Predators enjoy some nice deals on players who are under ELC’s or second contracts: Kevin Fiala ($863K), Frederick Gaudreau ($667K), Ponuts Aberg ($650K) and Colton Sissons ($625K) could all be helpful contributors at low costs.

This tweet really sells the point, in case this post hasn’t: GM David Poile hasn’t been slowing down much since being named GM of the Year. And he might just be the best executive in the NHL right now.

  • It’s all pretty immaculate; even if you’re not a fan of Pekka Rinne, his $7 million cap hit expires in two seasons. By then, the Predators could very well transition to Juuse Saros, possibly echoing the Penguins with Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray along the way.

Overall, it’s an enviable situation, as Nashville’s clean cap ranks with Pittsburgh and few others as the best-looking in the NHL. That’s especially true when you consider the fact that the Lightning are allocating $8.8 million to the shaky duo of former Rangers in Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi.

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Still, the Predators aren’t done for the summer, as Johansen stands as a tricky situation. They don’t have the helpful deadline of arbitration looming, so the two sides are just going to have to figure something out … eventually.

Even so, Cap Friendly pegs them at $13.43 million in cap space, so they have room to work with their first-line center.

While teams like the Penguins and Blackhawks stocked up on high draft picks, the Predators’ greatest moves have largely come through shrewd drafting, savvy trades, and forward-thinking contract extensions. One can debate which setup is the best, but Poile’s work places Nashville in the upper crust, and their built to stay there for years to come.

Related: Matt Murray, Jake Guentzel could help Penguins compete for years.

Okposo to fans: ‘Thinking about your support brings a tear to my eye’

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In a lengthy and heartfelt letter, Kyle Okposo thanked the hockey community – especially but not only Buffalo Sabres fans and teammates – for their support after his hospitalization.

Okposo also shared some personal details about how a seemingly innocent hit affected his sleep and caused alarming weight loss, dropping him below 200 lbs. for the first time since he was 17. He said he checked into a hospital expecting to get help sleeping, only to go to ICU after a negative reaction to medication.

As scary as that experience was, it helped him put his career and life in perspective. Okposo also realized just how much fans, teammates, and people associated with the sport can help each other in times of need.

It’s a really great letter and worth reading in full (especially considering his praise for new Sabres management), but here’s one of the more inspiring excerpts:

When I turned my phone on, I had 500 messages waiting for me. Current players, former players, former coaches – everyone reached out. Even now, fans see me in Minnesota or Buffalo and say, ‘I’m just really glad you’re doing OK.’ It’s overwhelming, and it makes me proud to be a part of the hockey community. We’re a tight-knit group and we stick together. Thinking about your support brings a tear to my eye.

The messages from my Sabres teammates meant a lot in particular. I’ve only played with those guys for one year, with Matt Moulson being the exception, and we didn’t have the type of season that we wanted. The fact that all of them were so supportive through this shows that the bond between teammates really does transcend what happens on the ice.

Okposo noted that he appreciated playing in “Da Beauty League” last week, even though his team got “whacked.”

Read more about him being involved in that here, and how happy Zach Parise and others were to see him play in this article. Okposo also reaffirms the belief that he’ll be ready to go for Sabres training camp in that letter.