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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]

WATCH LIVE: Rangers at Penguins on Rivalry Night

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Three
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Tonight, the New York Rangers are in Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins at Consol, in a rematch of the ’14 and ’15 playoffs (the Blueshirts eliminated the Pens from each of the last two postseasons, you’ll recall.)

You can catch the game at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, or watch live online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some relevant linkage for tonight’s tilt:

NHL on NBCSN: Rangers, Penguins renew acquaintances on Rivalry Night

Rangers ‘are doing a lot of good things’

‘I wonder if that’s Crosby, what happens?’ — AV upset after McDonagh concussed by Simmonds

Malkin (lower body) to miss rest of week

Crosby, Karlsson and Trocheck are NHL’s three stars of the week

Report: With Byfuglien sticking in Winnipeg, Kings ‘may now turn their attention’ to Ladd

Andrew Ladd, Anze Kopitar
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Maybe Dean Lombardi and Kevin Cheveldayoff still have something to discuss after all.

Sure, those Dustin Byfuglien-to-Los Angeles rumors are now dead — On Monday, Big Buff signed a five-year, $38 million extension with the Jets  — but a new rumor has emerged, one that suggests the Kings are interested in another of Winnipeg’s pending UFAs:

Andrew Ladd.

More, from the Free Press:

The common thinking now regarding Ladd is with Byfuglien now committed to a new five-year, US$38-million extension, the window to re-sign the captain is being slammed shut, especially knowing the young core of Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba and Adam Lowry all become restricted free agents this summer and will earn raises.

[Cheveldayoff], not surprisingly, offered no hints Monday after the Byfuglien announcement. Sources say the Jets and Ladd’s camp have kept communication open, but that hardly means a deal is close to getting done. In fact, if anything, the Byfuglien signing has only cranked up more Ladd speculation, including rumours the Los Angeles Kings — who were also thought to be in on any potential Byfuglien trade discussion — may now turn their attention to the Jets captain.

Ladd’s currently in the last of a five-year, $22 million deal with a $4.4M cap hit and, per TSN senior correspondent Gary Lawless, is seeking a six-year extension “with an average annual value north of $6 million.”

Which explains why the Jets might be forced to move him.

That L.A. is in the mix shouldn’t come as a surprise. Lombardi has a history of swinging for the fences with his deadline acquisitions — Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik and Andrej Sekera, to name a few — and Ladd has a ton of postseason experience, with two Stanley Cups on his resume.

Report: Jets, Ladd break off contract talks

At season’s end, Holland will ‘plot a plan’ to deal with Red Wings’ goalie situation

Detroit Red Wings' Petr Mrazek (34) replaces goalie Jimmy Howard (35) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)
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“As we wake up today, obviously Petr Mrazek is our number-one guy.”

That was Detroit GM Ken Holland today on TSN 1200 radio in Ottawa, when asked about his goaltending situation.

“Obviously” was the right word to use.

Mrazek, 23, has been brilliant this season, going 20-10-4 with a .933 save percentage. Without him, it’s fair to wonder if the Wings would be in a playoff spot.

But Mrazek, a pending restricted free agent, has also created a problem of sorts for Holland. That’s because 31-year-old Jimmy Howard is already locked up through 2018-19 for a cap hit of almost $5.3 million — and that’s a lot of money to pay a backup, especially one with a .904 save percentage.

Holland said he isn’t focused on that now.

“When the year’s out and I’ve got all the information, I’ll sit down and plot a plan heading into the offseason,” he said. “But for now, we’ve got a top, young goaltender in Petr Mrazek and we’ve got a guy that’s in the prime of his career, Jimmy Howard, that’s been the number-one guy here.

“It’s been tough for [Howard] recently; every time he plays a game he seems to play the second game of a back-to-back. … He’s had some real tough games against some real good teams, hasn’t had a lot of puck luck. Our team really hasn’t played very well for him when he’s been in there, but he keeps battling and he keeps competing.”

The challenge for Holland might be to sell that story to another GM, because Howard’s save percentage has been below the league average the past three seasons.

Related: Howard pulled again, calls his performance ‘unacceptable’

With 1967 expansion, the NHL ‘spread the game from California to New York’

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 04:  Los Angeles Kings fans gather outside of the arena prior to Game One of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on June 4, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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The NHL’s “great expansion” of 1967 delivered hockey to California, led to the “Broad Street Bullies” and legitimized the league as a major force in North American professional sports.

Fifty years ago this week, the owners of the Original Six teams unanimously approved doubling in size by awarding franchises to Los Angeles, San Francisco/Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Minneapolis/St. Paul. No other pro sports league had ever doubled the number of its teams and the move was considered a gamble.

It proved to be one of the most important decisions in hockey history, and helped convince many that the NHL was for real.

“It had a major impact on the league because thereafter there was almost a lineup for other cities to want to join the league,” said Brian O’Neill, the league’s former director of administration who oversaw the 1967 expansion draft and scheduling. “That was a key to the expansion, to spread the game from California to New York. … It convinced a lot of people that hockey was a major sport now and it was coast-to-coast and that selling franchises would not be difficult.”

From 1943 to 1967, the NHL was a stable, six-team league made up of the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. The move to expand came in the league’s 50th season amid plenty of internal debate.

Owners considered adding two teams at a time, but at their Feb. 7-9 meeting in New York they unanimously approved what President Clarence Campbell later referred to as the “great expansion.” Hockey had some catching up to do: Major League Baseball had 20 teams, the National Basketball Association had nine and the National Football League had 14, with more on the way.

The MLB, the NBA and NFL all had a presence in California, too, something the NHL needed.

“The big issue, of course, is television,” O’Neill said Tuesday. “They wanted to get national. That’s why it was important to have L.A. and at that time Oakland, and then all the others followed in.”

Owners each paid the $2 million expansion fee, and the Los Angeles Kings and California Seals joined the fold along with the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Minnesota North Stars. New owners needed the draw of facing traditional opponents while the old guard owners wanted to make sure their teams could still win, so the expansion teams went into the new West Division with the champions of East and West meeting for the Stanley Cup.

The goal was to help the new teams but not hurt the old ones.

“When they made expansion, they took the players that were expendable, put them on a team and called them a team,” said Bob Kelly, who was part of the early Flyers teams. “We didn’t have the real identity that an Original Six team has or the history behind that. (We were) just happy to be in the NHL.”

It worked in most places, as an Original Six team won the Cup the first six years before Kelly and the Flyers’ “Broad Street Bullies” teams broke through with back-to-back titles in 1974 and 1975.

“Really, the Original Six was kind of who we were, and then all of a sudden here we are an expansion team and seven years later we were able to win the Cup,” Kelly said Wednesday. “That’s what you dream about as a kid.”

Despite the Oakland-based Seals never catching on and moving to Cleveland before folding in 1978, the NHL expanded to such places as Vancouver, Buffalo, Long Island and Washington, and reached 21 teams with the integration of the World Hockey Association in 1979.

Hockey returned to the Bay Area with the San Jose Sharks in 1991, and after the North Stars became the Dallas Stars in 1993, Minnesota got the Wild in 2000. The NHL returned to Atlanta (which didn’t work) and Denver (which did) and has landed in nontraditional markets like Phoenix, South Florida and Tampa.

The league stands at 30 teams and is considering expanding once again to either 31 or 32, with Las Vegas and Quebec City under consideration.