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]

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch when they failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fan, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong regular seasons, even as memories of their Cup win start to fade into the distance. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to defend Craig Anderson following his blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some sad endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: