News and notes: How are the Bruins stopping Chicago’s power play?

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News and notes entering Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Final showdown — will Boston continue to stymie the power play?

Game 4: Chicago Blackhawks at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (watch on NBC and live online) – Bruins lead series, 2-1

In Game 3, Daniel Paille and Patrice Bergeron scored second-period goals and Tuukka Rask stopped all 28 Blackhawks shots he faced in a 2-0 Bruins win. Tonight, the Bruins will look to win their eighth straight game at TD Garden – tying a franchise record for consecutive home wins in a single postseason (1990) – and take a three-games-to-one series lead to Chicago with the chance to clinch the Cup.

The Bruins, who lead a Stanley Cup Final series for the first time since 1974, when they won Game 1 vs. the Philadelphia Flyers (note: their only series “lead” in 2011 came after clinching the Cup in Game 7), look like the better side heading into Game 4. Since the first intermission of Game 2, Rask (49 straight saves) and company have shut out the Blackhawks, and the new third line of Daniel Paille (two game-winning goals) – Chris Kelly (one goal, one assist) – Tyler Seguin (two assists) has found a scoring touch that had been lacking for the most part this postseason. Patrice Bergeron scored his second goal of the series (both of which have been power-play goals) in Game 3 and raised his faceoff percentage to 69.7% (69-of-99) this series.

Boston’s penalty kill, which has not skipped a beat since PK standout Gregory Campbell was lost for the season with a broken fibula in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, has stopped all 11 Chicago power plays, extending its kill streak to 27 and raising its postseason success rate to 88.9%. While playing with the man disadvantage for almost a full period (18:54) this series, the B’s have as many blocked shots (eight, led by Dennis Seidenberg, with four) during that time as shots on goal allowed.

The Blackhawks did not lose three straight games during their Presidents’ Trophy-winning campaign. Now, they hope to avoid losing three straight for the second time in their last three playoff series. Marian Hossa, tied for the team lead with 15 points, is expected to play after leaving pre-game warmups and being scratched prior to Game 3. Head coach Joel Quenneville refused to specify the nature or cause of Hossa’s injury, other than affirming that it was an upper-body injury. (TSN later reported that his ailment is neck-related.)

With Hossa out, Quenneville tried several different power-play combinations – only Michal Handzus and Hossa’s replacement, Ben Smith, did not see any power-play time – but none were able to break through. Six Blackhawks were on the ice for four or more minutes of 5-on-4 hockey, but only three had a shot on goal.

Player

Power-play time on ice

Shots on goal

Goals

Michal Rozsival

4:52

0

0

Duncan Keith

4:29

0

0

Patrick Kane

4:28

0

0

Andrew Shaw

4:26

1

0

Patrick Sharp

4:23

2

0

Jonathan Toews

4:19

1

0

DID YOU KNOW?

Two nights after becoming the fifth-highest scorer in NHL postseason history (197 points), Bruins forward Jaromir Jagr will become the 21st player (19 skaters, 2 goaltenders) to appear in 200 playoff games. It will be only his 14th Cup Final game, fewest among the group.

GARDEN GREATNESS

Since Patrice Bergeron scored the game-tying goal (4-4) at 19:09 of the third period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs. Toronto, the Bruins have been dominant at home. Here are some numbers which illustrate their dominance at TD Garden:

  • Outscored opponents (TOR, NYR, PIT, CHI) by a 17-6 margin
    • 4 goals for, 0 goals against since 8:51 of second period in Game 3 of Eastern Conference Final
  • Trailed for 15:50 of 427:55 (3.7%)
    • Trend: have not trailed since 3:48 of second period in Game 5 of Eastern Conference Semifinals
  • Tuukka Rask: 0.84 GAA (6 goals allowed), saved 205-of-211 (.972) shots, 2 shutouts
    • Rask trend: 87 straight saves since 8:51 of second period in Game 3 of Eastern Conference Final
  • Patrice Bergeron: 3 goals (2 OT-GWG), 4 assists, 97-of-158 (61.4%) on faceoffs
    • Bergeron trend: 41-of-54 (75.9%) on faceoffs since Game 4 of Eastern Conference Final
  • Penalty kill: 23-for-24 (95.8%)
    • PK trend: 15 consecutive kills since Game 5 of Eastern Conference Semifinals

DID YOU KNOW?

Since the Stanley Cup Final went to a best-of-seven format in 1939, teams that won Game 3 after splitting the first two contests won the Cup 21 of 25 times. Of those 25 teams, 12 had the chance to extend their series lead to three-games-to-one at home, and six – including the last three since 1989 – lost. The last team to win Game 4 at home while up two-games-to-one was the 1986 Montreal Canadiens.

Year Team Opponent Game 4 result Series result
2004 Calgary Flames Tampa Bay Lightning L, 1-0 Lost in 7
1991 Minnesota North Stars Pittsburgh Penguins L, 5-3 Lost in 6
1989 Montreal Canadiens Calgary Flames L, 4-2 Lost in 6
1986 Montreal Canadiens Calgary Flames W, 1-0 Won in 5

LINKS

  • Zdeno Chara stands tall for Bruins when they need him most [National Post]
  • Brad Marchand calls Andrew Shaw a “kitty cat” after Game 3 scrum [NESN]
  • Bruins are the team you love to love [Boston Globe]
  • Joel Quenneville refuses to tip hand on Marian Hossa injury [SportsNet]
  • Dave Bolland realizes he can’t three-peat in Game 4 [Chicago Sun-Times]

Penguins’ Sullivan believes resiliency is ‘strength of this team’

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PITTSBURGH (AP) Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz stood shoulder to shoulder at center ice as midnight approached, crowd on its feet, Prince of Wales Trophy in hand. Another shot at the Stanley Cup in the offing.

On the surface, it could have been a scene ripped from 2008 when the longtime Pittsburgh Penguin teammates earned their first crack at a championship together, the one that was supposed to be the launching pad for a dynasty.

A closer look at the weary, grateful smiles told a different story.

This team has learned over the last decade that nothing can be taken for granted. Not their individual greatness or postseason success, even for one of the NHL’s marquee franchises. Not the cohesion it takes to survive the crucible of the most draining championship chase in professional team sports or the mental toughness (along with a dash of luck) needed to stay on top once you get there.

So Crosby paused in the giddy aftermath of Pittsburgh’s 3-2 victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the helter-skelter Eastern Conference finals to do something the two-time Hart Trophy winner almost never does. He took stock of the moment, aware of how fleeting they can be.

“Every series you look at, the margin for error is so slim,” Crosby said. “We’ve just continued to find ways and different guys have stepped up. We trust in that and we believe in that and whoever has come in the lineup has done a great job. That builds confidence. We’ve done it different ways, which is probably our biggest strength.”

And they’ll have to do it one more time in the final against swaggering Nashville if they want to become the first team in nearly 20 years and the first in salary-cap era to win back-to-back championships.

It’s a daunting task. When the puck drops in Game 1 on Monday night in Pittsburgh, the Penguins will be playing in their 108th game in the last calendar year, and that doesn’t count another half dozen for those who played in the World Cup of Hockey and a handful of exhibition games.

Pittsburgh, however, has survived to do something even Chicago and Los Angeles – who have combined for five of the seven Cups awarded since 2010 – could not in putting itself in positon for a repeat.

Credit coach Mike Sullivan’s ever-prescient tinkering with the lineups, including his decision to throw Kunitz back into the fray with Crosby as Game 7 wore on, an experiment that ended with Crosby feeding Kunitz for the winner 5:09 into the second overtime .

Credit goaltender Matt Murray, thrust back into the lineup when Marc-Andre Fleury‘s hot play that helped carry the Penguins through the opening two rounds finally cooled.

Credit a maturity – or maybe it’s wisdom – from the team leaders who watched the first half of the decade come and go with plenty of gaudy regular-season numbers but no Cup banners to join the one they captured in 2009.

Pinning down what changed is difficult. General manager Jim Rutherford’s ability to remake the team on the fly to build one of the fastest lineups in the league helped. So did Sullivan’s ability to cut through the noise when he replaced the professorial Mike Johnston in December 2015.

Yet the Penguins understand there’s something else at work too, a resiliency and accountability they lacked while falling to lower-seeded teams every year from 2010-14.

“I believe that the resolve and the resilience of this team is the strength of this team,” Sullivan said.

Both were on full display in Game 7.

Kunitz, who missed the first-round series against Columbus with a lower-body injury, returned to see himself bumped from the first line to the fourth, scored his first two goals of the playoffs. Conor Sheary, a blurring revelation last spring who suddenly found himself a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 against the Senators, returned to set up Kunitz’s first goal .

Justin Schultz, who has assumed the as the minute-hogging, puck-moving defenseman role held by the injured Kris Letang, returned from his own health scare and scored a go-ahead goal in the third period.

If the Penguins were a force of nature last spring while earning the franchise’s fourth Cup, this one is more of a throwback. More blue collar. More anonymous.

Some of the key cogs that helped Pittsburgh get to this point – rookie forward Jake Guentzel, 37-year-old playoff newcomer Ron Hainsey and career grinder Scott Wilson – weren’t even around last spring. Yet they and so many others not named Crosby or Malkin have become equal partners in pursuit of a title.

“This year it’s been back and forth, it’s been tough,” Kunitz said. “We’ve had great individual performances. We had great goaltending. It’s something every night.”

It hasn’t been pretty. So what? Perhaps the biggest sign of the team’s growth is it has abandoned the pursuit of style points for something far more tangible. Like a 34-pound piece of hardware, one Pittsburgh has no intention of handing off anytime soon.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Breaking: Predators’ Laviolette has not tried Nashville’s ‘hot chicken’ yet

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Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette dropped a bombshell on “The Dan Patrick Show.” Some of us are still reeling from the revelation.

It turns out that Laviolette hasn’t tried “hot chicken” yet.

Laviolette explained that, if he had the “bird that bites back” before a game, he’d be on fire behind the bench. Sadly, Dan Patrick let him off the hook and didn’t ask “Well, what about off days, Lavi?”

(They might not be on a lazy hockey nickname basis yet, though, to be fair.)

All kidding aside, Laviolette provided more insight on the Predators’ Stanley Cup Final run – and not a lot more hot chicken hot takes – in the longer interview below.

Note: This post’s author may or may not have gone a year in Nashville without trying hot chicken either. Hey, Laviolette’s been there for three seasons now. Way worse.

‘Making Gretzky’s head bleed’ wasn’t so easy for ‘Swingers’ filmmaker

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Remember that classic (and very NSFW) video game hockey scene from “Swingers?” The one where Vince Vaughn espouses the virtues of Jeremy Roenick? It was pretty great, right?

There was something so organic about two friends getting up to video-game shenanigans (and discussing which 16-bit era game featured the best pixelated violence), but apparently it was easier to set the scene that it was to “make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed.”

The Ringer’s Achievement Oriented podcast caught up with Doug Liman (pictured with Jon Favreau in this post’s main image) for some hysterical background information on getting that highly amusing scene right.

“I had never actually seen Wayne Gretzky draw blood, but Vince [Vaughn] claimed he could do it repeatedly, so we put it in the script,” Liman said. “The actors are reacting to that. And then we’re editing the movie and I bring the [game console] into the editing room and we start playing it and we’re recording it onto a videotape so that when we get the one piece we need we’ll play that back on the TV and shoot it. [We do this] for, like, weeks. Nobody can draw blood. And I’m like [to] Nintendo, ‘Hey, can you give us the backdoor key to doing this?’ It wasn’t like we were having fun playing the game, because all we would do was pass the puck down and set it up for Gretzky to get the puck and then we would, you know, try to slam him into the boards.”

Like a rare athletic feat, they got it right, but don’t ask Liman to pull it off on a whim. Liman sure made it seem like they were lucky to ever commit that moment to film.

Liman explained that it was “infuriatingly fleeting” and not the sort of video game trick that you could make work over and over again once you learned the right combination of button presses.

This is some really funny, fantastic background information on the movie that launched the careers of Favreau and Vaughn. It also helped remind us of that golden 16-bit era of EA NHL games, whether you preferred NHL ’94, ’95, or ’96. (And so on.)

Liman also shares a very amusing story about how hockey video game skills don’t exactly translate to the real sport, so check out the transcript and the full podcast for more.

And, if you’re playing a modern game like NHL ’17, don’t pick on “Super Fan 87.” Be nice to your friends. That’s the money move.

Here’s the scene itself. Again, a warning: there is strong language and 16-bit “gore.”

Price’s agent, Canadiens’ GM expected to meet next week

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It seems the two big orders of business for the Montreal Canadiens this offseason will be finding a way to re-sign Alexander Radulov, and come to terms on a new contract extension with franchise goaltender Carey Price.

According to multiple reports, including Pierre LeBrun and RDS, Price’s agent, Gerry Johansson, and Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin are expected to meet next week to potentially begin talking about a new deal.

Price, who has one year remaining on his current contract, will be eligible to sign a new extension on July 1 and it would be reasonable to assume that is going to be one of the larger contracts among the league’s goaltenders.

Price’s current contract will pay him $6.5 million next season, a figure that places him among the top-five goalies in the league.

Given what Price has meant to the Canadiens over the past four years he should expect to make something closer to the $7.5-$8 million figure that Henrik Lundqvist and Sergei Bobrovsky are currently making.

The 29-year-old Price has been one of the NHL’s best goalies for four years now and has a massive impact on the success of the Canadiens. When he is healthy, they win. When he is not (as he was not a year ago), they do not.

Of the 46 goalies that have appeared in at least 100 games since the start of the 2012-13 season, Price currently ranks in the top-three in save percentage (first), even-strength save percentage (first) goals against average (second), and shutouts (third). He has also taken home a Hart Trophy as league MVP and a Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie during that stretch.