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]

‘We’ve got to get that out of his game’: Trotz wants Ovechkin to cut down on slashing penalties

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As you may have noticed, the NHL is trying to crack down on players cheating on faceoffs and stick infractions.

The first week of the preseason has been nothing more than teams getting a good look at their power play units because players still aren’t used to the way officials are calling the game.

One of the players that has to adapt to the officiating is Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, who took two slashing penalties against Montreal on Wednesday night.

“Too many slashing penalties,” Caps head coach Barry Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “Ovi took two. We’ve got to get that out of his game.”

Like all players, it’s something the Capitals captain will have to get used to before the regular season begins. But let’s be honest, there’s a good chance that these officials won’t be as strict on the stick or face-off infractions as the regular season goes on.

Ovechkin isn’t the only star player that’s having an issue adapting to some of these stricter on-ice policies. Earlier in this week, Bruins forward Brad Marchand ripped the new face-off rule.

“This faceoff rule’s an absolute joke,” Marchand said. “That’s how you ruin the game of hockey by putting that in there. They’re going to have to do something about that because we can’t play this year like that. That’s brutal.”

We’ll see if the league actually sticks to its guns here. If they do, how long will it take the players to adjust?

Housley focused on making Sabres ‘an aggressive team’

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The Buffalo Sabres haven’t been a playoff team in quite some time, but the organization is hoping that their major offseason changes will help them take a few steps in the right direction.

One of those major changes came behind the bench, as the team hired Predators assistant Phil Housley to be their head coach.

Housley did some terrific work with defensemen like Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban last season. A big part of Nashville’s attack came from defenders pushing the pace from the back.

“We want to be an aggressive team,” Housley said, per NHL.com. “I think everybody we’ve talked about playing aggressive offensively but we need to play aggressive defensively. I think defense gives you a chance to win every night and they’ll understand that we want to be fast and aggressive. The days are gone when a guy wants to make a breakout pass and the [defense] just watched the rush go up and play; they have to get up in the play not only to maybe join the rush and add to the attack, but to be in the offensive zone, being able to keep pucks in, or else you’re going to start playing defense.”

The Sabres could use an offensive boost from their defense (or anyone really). Last season, Jack Eichel collected 57 points in 61 games, which comes out to an impressive 0.934 points-per-game. But Unfortunately for the Sabres, no player topped 60 points in 2016-17.

Buffalo changed the look of their defense during the summer, as they acquired Nathan Beaulieu from Montreal and Marco Scandella from Minnesota. Both guys are capable of moving the puck, which should help Housley execute his plan.

Also, it’ll be interesting to see if Housley can take Rasmus Ristolainen‘s game to the next level. The 22-year-old has surpassed the 40-point mark in each of the last two seasons. He’s also served as the big-minute guy on the Sabres blue line.

“We’re here to learn from him and pick his brain, he was a [heck] of a player in his day,” defender Zach Bogosian said. “He gets the game. He’s played for a while, he’s coached for a while, he’s been around forever.

“Guys are looking forward to playing that style.”

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev