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The Morning Skate: Can Chicago continue Cup trends?

News and notes entering tonight’s Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. More OT on the way?

Game 2: Boston Bruins at Chicago Blackhawks, 8 ET (NBCSN)Blackhawks lead series, 1-0

In Game 1, the Blackhawks overcame a two-goal, third-period deficit, and Andrew Shaw’s goal 12:08 into the third overtime lifted them to a dramatic 4-3 win over the Bruins in the fifth-longest game in Stanley Cup Final history. Tonight, the Hawks will look to become the eighth straight team since 2006 to win the first two games of a Final series. Five of the previous seven teams – Carolina, Anaheim, Detroit (2008), Chicago, Los Angeles – that went up two-games-to-none won the Cup. Only Detroit (2009, to Pittsburgh) and Vancouver (2011, to Boston) eventually lost, both in seven games.

Nineteen skaters (10 Blackhawks, nine Bruins) were on the ice for 30+ minutes in the series opener, but it is injury, not fatigue, that could force a lineup change in Game 2. The Bruins’ top line of Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and David Krejci (a.k.a. the “HuLK Line”), which has registered 57 points (21 goals, 36 assists) in 17 games this postseason, may be without the services of Horton, who aggravated an upper-body injury (believed to be a left shoulder subluxation) midway through the first overtime of Game 1. However, Horton was a full participant in Friday’s practice, skating without visible issues and firing slapshots on backup goaltender Anton Khudobin. Although head coach Claude Julien classified Horton as “day-to-day” and a “game-day decision,” the Bruins seem optimistic that he will play. In case he is unable to go, Tyler Seguin will take his place on the right side next to Krejci, possibly opening the door for Carl Soderberg or Jordan Caron on the third line.

The Blackhawks are expected to go with the same lines that propelled them in the latter parts of Game 1. Rookie Brandon Saad, who scored his first-career postseason goal, will remain on the left wing of the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Bryan Bickell, tied for the team lead with eight goals this postseason, will stay on the third line wing, alongside center Dave Bolland and Shaw. That trio was on the ice for Shaw’s triple-overtime winner in the series opener.

A Blackhawks win would mark the 58th win for home teams (in 82 games) this postseason, a new NHL record. The 57 home wins coming in is tied with the mark set in 1991, in 92 games.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith is the first player to play 40+ minutes in consecutive postseason games (40:12 in Game 5 vs. Kings, 48:40 in Game 1 vs. Bruins) since the Stars’ Richard Matvichuk did so in the 2000 Stanley Cup Final (41:19 in Game 5 & 40:05 in Game 6 vs. Devils).

GAME 1 SUPERLATIVES

  • 112:08 playing time (5th longest Stanley Cup Final game of all-time)
  • 59:54 playing time between game-tying (Johnny Oduya) and game-winning (Andrew Shaw) goal
  • 117 combined shots on goal (most in Cup Final game since 1996, Game 4 – Colorado at Florida – 119), led by Marian Hossa (10) and Brandon Saad (9)
  • 217 shot attempts, led by Hossa (16) and Patrick Sharp (15)
  • 110 combined saves (most in Cup Final game since 1996, Game 4 – Colorado at Florida – 118)
  • 59 saves by Tuukka Rask (most in Cup Final game since 1996, Game 4 – Patrick Roy, Colorado – 63)
  • 120 combined hits, led by Andrew Ference (10), Bryan Bickell, Brandon Bollig & Andrew Shaw (9)
  • 63 combined blocked shots, led by Dennis Seidenberg (9) and Ference (8)
  • 114 combined faceoffs
  • 44 faceoffs taken by Jonathan Toews (23 won)
  • 27 faceoffs won by Patrice Bergeron (41 taken)
  • 48:40 time-on-ice for Duncan Keith (48:36 for Seidenberg)

TOEWS, BERGERON TAKE HOME INDIVIDUAL AWARDS

Two Stanley Cup Final participants were selected as winners on the first day of NHL Awards on Friday.

The Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews (75 first-place votes, 1,260 points) won his first-ever Frank J. Selke Trophy as the “forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game,” edging out last year’s winner, the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron (78, 1,250), by only ten points. The Red Wings’ three-time Selke winner, Pavel Datsyuk (8, 737), finished third in the voting. Toews spearheaded a Chicago team that allowed the fewest goals in the NHL (97) and posted the third-best penalty kill (87.2%) this regular season, while scoring 23 goals (T-5th in NHL), making 56 takeaway (T-most), and winning 59.9% of his faceoffs.

Bergeron did not leave empty-handed. The Bruins’ alternate captain won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded “to the player who best exemplifies leadership on and off the ice and who has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community.” On the ice, the longest-tenured Bruin (2003 draft) registered 32 points (T-3rd on the team), won 62.1% of his faceoffs (best in the NHL) and posted a +24 rating (6th in the league) this regular season. Off the ice, he has been active with several charitable organizations in the Boston metropolitan area for several years, in particular developing “Patrice’s Pals,” an organization which helps kids in local hospitals experience Bruins home games from a luxury suite at TD Garden.

Today, the Hart (most valuable player), Calder (top rookie), Norris (top defenseman) and Vezina (top goaltender) trophies, as well as the Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player), will be awarded on NBCSN, beginning at 7 ET.  Only one player on either the Bruins or Blackhawks is a finalist for any of these honors: the Blackhawks’ Brandon Saad (Calder Trophy).

LINKS

  • Hurting Nathan Horton has heart [WEEI]
  • Bad boy Patrick Kane grows up [Globe and Mail]
  • Patrice Bergeron making the grade in Boston [ESPN]
  • Tuukka Rask, Corey Crawford finally earning some recognition [Canadian Press]
  • Illinois politicians support Blackhawks, sometimes from afar [New York Times]

Keep your head up: Hurricanes reportedly hand Raffi Torres a PTO

VANCOUVER, CANADA - MAY 3:  Raffi Torres #13 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Vancouver Canucks for a 3-2 victory in overtime in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, May 03, 2013 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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From opting against fighting the NHL’s 41-game suspension to seeing his season derailed by knee issues, there was the feeling that the league had seen the last of controversial forward Raffi Torres.

Perhaps not.

The Carolina Hurricanes reportedly handed the 34-year-old a PTO, according to former Hurricanes defenseman Aaron Ward.

It’s something the Raleigh News & Observer’s Chip Alexander also mentioned on Monday.

With Bryan Bickell added to the mix during this off-season, the Hurricanes seem interesting in adding some beef. It’s unclear if Torres is really in the sort of condition to make a mark, but Carolina’s going to at least take a look at him.

Beware, pre-season opponents and training camp teammates.

Capitals bump Todd Reirden up to associate coach

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10:  Assistant coach Todd Reirden of the Washington Capitals talks to the power play unit during a time-out against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 10, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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The Washington Capitals announced that Todd Reirden (pictured) was promoted from assistant to associate coach on Monday.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, most directly, the team shared word that he’ll run Capitals training camp while Barry Trotz works with Team Canada at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Giving Reirden a promotion makes sense, as he’s been linked to some head coaching searches. The Washington Post compiled some of his opportunities:

In the past two years, Reirden has been a serious candidate for two NHL head-coaching gigs. According to the Calgary Sun, Reirden was a finalist to coach the Flames before they settled on Glen Gulutzan, and he was considered for the New Jersey Devils’ vacancy last summer, too. Lane Lambert, another Capitals assistant, was a finalist for the Colorado Avalanche head-coaching job earlier this month, according to the Denver Post.

The Capitals have a pretty well-regarded coaching group, as many credit goaltending coach Mitch Korn with some of Braden Holtby‘s improvement since Trotz took over.

Maybe we’ll see Reirden and Lambert get head coaching gigs at some point, but for now, Trotz’s “coaching tree” stays intact.

Penguins believe Kessel, others can heal up by start of next season

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 12:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with the Stanley Cup after their 3-1 victory to win the Stanley Cup against the San Jose Sharks in Game Six of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Going deep enough into the playoffs to win the Stanley Cup often comes with the cost of stacking up injuries, and the Pittsburgh Penguins paid the price.

As the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and others report, Phil Kessel (wrist) and others aren’t guaranteed to be healthy to start the 2016-17 regular season.

“All the injured guys are tracking in the right direction,” GM Jim Rutherford said. “Until they all get here, we won’t know 100 percent where they’re at, but it sounds like all the guys should be ready for camp.”

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review runs down a significant list of players who likely accrued bumps and bruises that may carry over:

Defenseman Trevor Daley, for instance, suffered a broken ankle on May 20. Kris Letang (foot), Nick Bonino (elbow infection), Bryan Rust (hand), Patric Hornqvist (hand) and Evgeni Malkin (elbow), among others, dealt with physical problems of varying severity at times.

If recent history is any indication, Kessel will probably fight hard not to miss time.

For all the weird criticisms he receives, he’s been remarkably durable, playing in every game during the past six seasons.

That’s impressive stuff, but the Penguins would be wise to keep an eye on the big picture. If it comes down to making Kessel and others swallow a little pride to limit the odds of aggravating injuries, they need to do it.

Even if it means a bumpy start to their title defense.

Win now, worry later: Why the Lightning should go all-in

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 08:  Ben Bishop #30 celebrates with Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in Game Three of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center on June 8, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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This is part of Lightning day at PHT …

The Chicago Blackhawks employed some great teams in winning three championships so far during the Jonathan ToewsPatrick Kane era, but there was something special about that first group.

For one thing, Toews and Kane were playing out the final years of their entry-level contracts. Those CBA-powered savings gave the Blackhawks a surplus of players who would eventually be too expensive to retain, most notably Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Brian Campbell.

That fantastic group never faced elimination during an overpowering run to the 2010 Stanley Cup.

Thanks to deft maneuvering by GM Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks were able to reload and put together other strong supporting casts even after big losses, and that could be a profound lesson for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It might be tempting for the Bolts to merely keep their window open as long as possible. Instead, they should take a big swing in 2016-17 and then trust management to recover from any fallout.

Bishop’s expiring contract

The safe move would be to trade away some of the expiring contracts on Tampa Bay’s roster instead of risking getting nothing when they leave.

Many believe that Ben Bishop is on his way out. With one year left on a contract that carries about a $6 million cap hit and Andrei Vasilevskiy getting the Jake Allen-style “you’re the man” extension, it seems like a matter of time.

Keeping Bishop around for one more season might just pay off, though.

For one thing, Vasilevskiy’s shown signs of brilliance, yet his current NHL numbers aren’t overwhelmingly strong. Bishop, meanwhile, kept the Bolts afloat during some tough times in 2015-16.

Even if the Lightning feel like Vasy is the guy, what if he gets hurt? They’ve already seen goalies get injured at inopportune times, and the reigning champion Penguins provide another reminder.

(For more on the Bishop situation, click here.)

Win low, worry later

GM Steve Yzerman deserves ample credit for signing Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman to relative bargain deals, but those are still expensive contracts. The squeeze is coming.

That said, the Lightning may want to identify their own Byfugliens and Ladds and go for broke in 2016-17. Let’s not forget how close they were to a second consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance even with Stamkos on the shelf.

It’s tough to imagine the Bolts managing to keep all of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin. On the other hand, it’s difficult to imagine many opponents managing to contain an attack that features Stamkos, Johnson, Palat, Drouin and other dangerous attackers.

(Plus, another year of evaluation would give Yzerman time to determine who is truly a core member.)

***

It’s a challenging situation, but the Lightning easily rank alongside the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and maybe a few other select teams as the cream of the East crop.

They’re positioned to jostle with the elites for some time, but why not take their best shot in 2016-17 and then make the best of things later on?

Sometimes the difference between really good and truly great comes down to having the courage to make these tough calls.