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]

After earning Memorial Cup MVP, Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome faces another important offseason

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Dylan Strome began this season in the NHL with the Arizona Coyotes. He ended it in junior, earning most valuable player honors in the 2017 Memorial Cup.

Strome and his Erie Otters didn’t capture the championship, as their season ultimately ended with a loss in Sunday’s finale. The Memorial Cup title went to the Windsor Spitfires thanks to a dominant performance from Maple Leafs prospect Jeremy Bracco.

Still, Strome posted 11 points in five games at the Memorial Cup, including a record-breaking seven points in a single game. That was on top of a campaign in which he had 109 points in 57 games combined between regular season and playoffs.

“There are a lot of players who get sent back and have trouble overcoming the disappointment,” Erie’s head coach Kris Knoblauch told NHL.com. “But Dylan has never been like that. That’s a major reason we are here.”

Taken third overall by the Coyotes in the 2015 NHL Draft, Strome began this season with the big club, but after appearing in only seven games with one assist, Arizona made the decision to send its prized prospect back to juniors. (Remember, Strome wasn’t eligible at the time to play in the AHL.)

That 2015 draft was loaded with top-end, first-round talent. It started with Connor McDavid, then Jack Eichel as the top two picks. Strome was third, followed by Mitch Marner at fourth.

The Strome vs. Marner debate and comparisons started well before the draft took place. Marner has played 77 games in the NHL for the Maple Leafs, with an impressive 61 points. Could’ve been rookie of the year had it not been for playing in the same freshman class as Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.

Of the top 11 picks in that draft, Strome has played the fewest NHL games so far. But he also plays center, and physical strength, especially at that position, seemed to be a focal point of his development when the Coyotes sent him down earlier in the year. His skating, too, is something Central Scouting had previously identified as needing improvement, even before the draft.

“I think Dylan, physically, it’s going to take him some time,” said Coyotes general manager John Chayka earlier in the season. “That’s where we got to — that he needs to get stronger.”

Chayka later added that on-ice performance is what the Coyotes would be keeping track of while Strome was back in Erie. Strome was certainly productive — again. He had a goal and an assist in the Memorial Cup final, before receiving his MVP nod.

Last year, Strome made the Coyotes roster out of training camp, along with other youngsters Jakob Chychrun, Lawson Crouse, and Christian Dvorak.

Pekka Rinne begins Stanley Cup Final as the Conn Smythe favorite

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Pekka Rinne enters the Stanley Cup Final as the favorite to capture the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, according to odds released by Bovada.

No surprise.

The Predators have gone on a terrific run this postseason, hitting the high expectations laid out for them prior to the start of the season. There have been many reasons for their success this spring, most notably the play of Rinne in goal.

He started the playoffs with consecutive shutouts versus the Blackhawks and then only gave up three goals in the final two games as Nashville swept Chicago, considered the Stanley Cup favorite when the playoffs began, in the opening round.

Rinne has continued to roll, with a .941 save percentage throughout the entire playoffs, while Nashville has allowed only 29 goals in 16 games.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are also near the top of that list for the Conn Smythe odds. Crosby is the reigning Conn Smythe winner, while Malkin leads all players with 24 points in 19 playoff games.

Here are the odds, via Bovada:

Pekka Rinne    9/4

Sidney Crosby    5/2

Evgeni Malkin    7/2

Matt Murray    9/1

Filip Forsberg    10/1

Phil Kessel    10/1

PK Subban    16/1

Roman Josi    25/1

Viktor Arvidsson    33/1

Ryan Ellis    33/1

Jake Guentzel    33/1

Chris Kunitz    33/1

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is Monday in Pittsburgh. After winning it all a year ago, the Penguins enter the series as the favorites against the Predators.

Related: Pekka Rinne has been the backbone for the Predators during run to the final

Here’s how the Penguins will line up for Game 1

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PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins are back in the Stanley Cup Final for the second year in a row and are looking to become the first team to win it in back-to-back years in two decades.

Here is a look at how they are expected to lineup on Monday night for the first game of the series.

Forwards

Chris KunitzSidney CrosbyConor Sheary
Scott WilsonEvgeni MalkinPhil Kessel
Bryan RustNick BoninoCarter Rowney
Jake GuentzelMatt CullenPatric Hornqvist

This is based on what we saw from the Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Ottawa and based on the practice lines on Sunday. With Patric Hornqvist returning to the lineup on Monday night it is going to come down to Jake Guentzel or Carl Hagelin being the odd man out, and given that Hagelin spent extra time on the ice with the scratches following the morning skate it seems likely he will be the scratch. Guentzel is still the NHL’s playoff leader in goals, but is currently riding an eight-game goal drought.

The Kunitz-Crosby-Sheary line was assembled in Game 7 and produced two of the Penguins’ three goals in their double overtime win.

Defense

Ian ColeJustin Schultz
Olli MaattaTrevor Daley
Brian DumoulinRon Hainsey

While Mike Sullivan has had a tendency to throw his line combinations into a blender during the postseason, his defense pairings have remained relatively consistent as long as he has the same healthy players in the lineup. And they are the ones you see above. Cole and Schultz have spent a significant portion of the season playing alongside one another and have formed a really solid duo. Olli Maatta has had some struggles at times, but over the past couple of weeks has played some of his best hockey in over a year. All of these pairings will get a similar amount of ice time.

Goalies

Matt Murray (starter)
Marc-Andre Fleury (backup)

Murray has reclaimed his starting spot since returning from injury and has won three of his first four starts while posting a .946 save percentage. He is playing in his second Stanley Cup Final even though he is still considered a rookie in the eyes of the NHL.

Related: Here’s how the Predators will line up in Game 1

Here’s how the Predators will line up for Game 1

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PITTSBURGH — For the first time in franchise history, the Nashville Predators will play in a Stanley Cup Final tonight.

Here’s how the Preds are expected to look in Game 1 against the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena:

 

 

Forwards

Filip ForsbergColton SissonsPontus Aberg
Viktor ArvidssonMike FisherJames Neal
Colin WilsonCalle JarnkrokCraig Smith
Frederick GaudreauVernon FiddlerAustin Watson

The big omission up front is Ryan Johansen, the Preds’ No. 1 center who’s been diagnosed with acute compartment syndrome and won’t play in the final. Kevin Fiala was also lost for the playoffs after getting hurt in the second round.

Johansen was acquired last year to give the Preds the type of elite center they’d been missing. Obviously, the timing of his injury couldn’t have been much worse.

“We lost a lot of offense and a big, heavy, strong centerman in Johansen,” said Sissons. “There’s gonna be some big shoes for us to fill.”

Of note, Wilson was absent from this morning’s skate. If he doesn’t play for whatever reason, expect Cody McLeod to take his spot.

Defense

Roman JosiRyan Ellis
Mattias EkholmP.K. Subban
Matt Irwin —  Yannick Weber

This is the strength of Nashville’s roster. Essentially, the Preds have two first pairings at their disposal, and head coach Peter Laviolette deploys them as such.

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin told reporters yesterday that it’s like the Preds have “four Karlssons,” referring to Josi, Ellis, Ekholm, and Subban.

That’s a slight exaggeration, but it’s arguably the best top four in the league.

Goalies

Pekka Rinne (starter)
Juuse Saros (backup)

Rinne has been excellent in these playoffs, compiling a 12-4 record with a .941 save percentage. This after a regular season where his save percentage fluctuated wildly from month-to-month.

“I think we started off really well (in the playoffs) against Chicago, then you gain some confidence, and personally I was playing well,” Rinne said. “Once that ball starts rolling you feel better and better and things start to go your way. I feel the biggest thing is as a team, for a long time in the regular season we were trying to find consistency and at times we didn’t do a good job. I feel like this postseason we’ve been really consistent and solid and playing really good hockey for 16 games now.”

Rinne has been so good that Saros has yet to even play a second of the postseason.

Related: Here’s how the Penguins will line up for Game 1