GregCronin

Leafs assoc. coach: I was thinking about Round 2 home ice during Boston collapse

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Over at Maple Leafs Hot Stove, there’s a terrific and extremely candid interview with Toronto associate coach Greg Cronin, in which he sheds light on his mindset during the Leafs’ Game 7 collapse against Boston in the opening playoff round.

Most interesting? Despite the shift in momentum over the final 10 minutes of the third period — during which Boston erased a 4-1 deficit — Cronin was looking ahead to potential home ice advantage in the second round.

That’s right.

Here’s more, from the Hot Stove:

“If you watch the game over again, watch the last three minutes. Did you know that [Mikhail] Grabovski had the puck in Boston’s zone, behind the net, and they had no goalie in the net? It was 4-2, and there was just around 2 minutes to go in the game.

“I was not in any shape or form worried about being under assault like we were in Game 5. It just wasn’t happening. It wasn’t happening up until that point. We had the puck in their zone, and Grabovski turned the puck over. They came up the ice, [David] Krejci passed it up to [Milan] Lucic, and Lucic skated by our bench. There was about a minute and 45 seconds to go and he dumped the puck in.

“I looked at the clock and I saw the Rangers were beating Washington. This was how comfortable I was. I was thinking, ‘the Rangers won and we’re going to have home ice for the next round of the playoffs.’

“That’s what I thought in my head. I didn’t feel that the Bruins had established any consistent threat. They had some rushes where they came into the zone and dumped it in and had a couple of shots from the boards, but there wasn’t any sustained pressure that when you’re a coach you think, ‘oh boy we’re in trouble.’

“Until Lucic scored the goal.”

Lucic’s goal came with 1:22 left in the contest. Thirty-one seconds later Patrice Bergeron scored the equalizer, then potted the game-winner just 6:05 into overtime.

The comeback, as has been stated on numerous occasions, was truly one for the ages. The Bruins became the first team in NHL history to win a Game 7 after trailing by three goals in the third period, something that Cronin tried to explain.

“I think were were looking at a group of players who had never been in that situation before in their careers,” he said. “Did the pressure get to them?

“I don’t think they’d be human if didn’t.”

Trio of Pens forwards take maintenance day on Saturday

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Chris Kunitz #14 of the Pittsburgh Penguins shoots the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins are about as healthy as you can be at this stage of the game. Outside of Trevor Daley (ankle), who’s done for the playoffs, the Pens have their desired roster at their disposal. That doesn’t mean that certain veterans don’t need a little bit of time to recuperate from the grind of the first three rounds.

On Saturday, Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen and Chris Kunitz didn’t participate in practice. Coach Mike Sullivan confirmed that each player had taken a maintenance day.

The 36-year-old Kunitz and 39-year-old Cullen have surely picked up some bumps and bruises throughout the postseason, while Bonino might still feel the effects of a shot block from Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Not to worry Penguins fans, Sullivan says that each player should be available for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Related:

Pens enter Stanley Cup Final as favorites: online bookmaker

Need for speed: Sharks, Pens brace for ‘fast hockey’ in Stanley Cup Final

Pittsburgh’s run fueled by ‘Baby Pens’

‘No question,’ David Backes wants to stay in St. Louis

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 17:  David Backes #42 of the St. Louis Blues looks on in Game Two of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 17, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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We don’t always get what we want…but we try.

In David Backes‘ case, he’d like to remain a member of the St. Louis Blues going forward. It might be difficult to make the numbers work, but the two sides will give it a go.

Backes, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, scored 21 goals and 45 points in 79 games in 2015-16. The 32-year-old added seven goals and 14 points in 20 postseason games before the Blues were eliminated by the Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

Re-signing their captain will likely interest the Blues, but can they make it work under the salary cap? St. Louis also has to re-sign RFA Jaden Schwartz and fellow UFA Troy Brouwer this off-season.

The Blues might have to pick between keeping Brouwer or Backes and that might not work in Backes’ favor. Brouwer is younger, and the fact that St. Louis gave up T.J. Oshie for him just last year could also play a factor in their decision.

Even if St. Louis doesn’t bring back role players like Steve Ott, Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall, they still need to have other players fill those spots on their third and fourth lines, which will eat into their limited cap space.

If they want to make room for Backes and/or Brouwer, the Blues may have to part ways with a defenseman like Kevin Shattenkirk (one year left at $4.25 million).

It looks like the Blues might be looking for a new captain in 2016-17.

‘It was a lot of ups and downs’: Pekka Rinne’s frustrating 2015-16 season

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The 2015-16 season won’t go down as the best year of Pekka Rinne‘s career. Rinne started the season off for the Nashville Predators relatively well, as he had a 10-2-3 record from the start of the year through Nov. 17. He had given up two goals or less in 10 of those 15 decisions and it looked like he would have another fantastic year.

That’s when things fell apart in a hurry.Rinne went on to lose seven of his next eight games. His once promising season was fading.

The 33-year-old’s season wasn’t all bad. He finished with a 34-21-10 record, but he had a mediocre 2.48 goals-against-average and .908 save percentage. His goals-against-average ranked 19th among goalies who played 40 games or more and his save percentage ranked 26th.

It’s safe to say the consistency was lacking.

In the end, his stick paid the price (top).

“It was a lot of ups and downs,” said Rinne, per the Tennessean. “Personally, I wanted to be better during the regular season. I always have high expectations for myself. I thought that it was hard to get consistency going on throughout the season. I feel like I had a lot of good games, but then (an average game would follow) or something like that.

“It was frustrating at times. Hopefully, my goal is to raise my level of game to where I need it to be and where I want it to be.”

Rinne’s numbers didn’t improve in the playoffs (7-7, 2.63, .906), but he did feel more comfortable about his game overall.

“I’m personally happy with how the season ended for me,” Rinne said. “I thought that I played my best hockey in (the) playoffs. I was able to raise my level of game and the way I played.”

Is Rinne on the decline or was this just a blip on the radar? We’ll find out, but don’t expect a change of scenery coming for the veteran. He probably won’t be leaving Nashville anytime soon. He has three years remaining on his contract at $7 million per year and the Predators don’t exactly have someone ready to take over.

Bruins’ Marchand wants to show his doubters that he’s ‘an OK hockey player’

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 21: Brad Marchand #63 of Canada and Chris Wideman #6 of USA battle for the puck  at Ice Palace on May 21, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)
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Bruins forward Brad Marchand had a fantastic 2015-16 NHL campaign. He set new career-highs in goals (37) and points (61), but some were still surprised to see his name added to his country’s World Cup roster on Friday evening.

Team Canada always has an embarrassment of riches to pick from when assembling their teams, so when players like Taylor Hall and Corey Perry are left off the roster, it leaves some people scratching their heads.

It was clear from the beginning that GM Doug Armstrong’s decisions wouldn’t be unanimous with fans and media personalities. When there’s that much talent to chose from, several great players will be excluded from the roster. But one thing is clear about the Marchand selection, he’s on the team because he can play.

“It’s an incredible honor to play for Team Canada. It’s something that I think we all take a lot of pride in, and something that is…it’s not an easy accomplishment,” said Marchand, per CSN New England.

“I think being part of a team like this is on a different level, and people may give a little more respect to that fact and may look at more of the kind of player I am, other than just the stuff they’ve seen in the past, with the hits and being a pest and stuff like that. Maybe those people will realize that I’m an OK hockey player, and I do play the game as well.”

Marchand likely won’t figure into a top-six role with Canada, but a partnership with teammate Patrice Bergeron on the third or fourth line definitely isn’t out of the question.

The Bruins forward has represented his country on five different occasions. Most recently, he helped Canada win gold at the World Hockey Championship in Russia earlier this month. Marchand had four goals and seven points in 10 games for Canada during the tournament.