If you can only watch one hockey game tonight, you probably wouldn’t go wrong picking the St. Louis Blues (14-3-3) at the Boston Bruins (14-6-1).
Both teams come into the matchup on a hot stretch. Boston’s won five of its last six; St. Louis’ entire season has been a hot stretch, really.
We’re hesitant to call this a possible Stanley Cup Final preview, given so many East-West matchups could qualify as that in today’s NHL, but it wouldn’t be untrue. And what a Final that could be — two big, tough teams that don’t mind getting their noses dirty, but also boast their share of talent.
If there’s one thing that separates this season’s Blues’ team from previous editions, it’s the ability to put the puck in the net at a high rate. St. Louis has the No. 2-ranked offense in the NHL, averaging 3.40 goals per game, and led by Alexander Steen’s 17 tallies. Last season, the Blues averaged 2.38 goals per game.
If there’s one thing that separates this season’s Bruins’ team from previous editions, it may be rookie defenseman Torey Krug, a dynamic offensive threat on the back end who has 12 points in 21 games. The 22-year-old has his issues defensively, but his offense makes up for those, according to Bruins coach Claude Julien.
“I think you just let him play,” Julien told NHL.com. “His game offensively is almost a natural part of it, so you let him do that stuff. I don’t think there’s too many times where he makes bad decisions up front. If he does, it’s going to happen once in a while. There’s always a risk and reward; you want to minimize that risk. That’s what you want to do. But right now I think he’s doing well offensively, so I’m certainly not going to take that part of his game away from him.”
Report: Caps draftee DiPauli heading to free agency
Just like Jimmy Vesey, Thomas DiPauli appears ready to test the open market.
DiPauli, a Notre Dame forward taken 100th overall by Washington at the 2012 draft, will reportedly hold out past the Aug. 15 deadline to sign with the Caps and head to unrestricted free agency, per ESPN.
A 22-year-old that’s spent the last four years playing for the Fighting Irish, DiPauli scored 14 goals and 32 points in 37 games last year, finishing as the team’s offensive MVP while earning honorable mention Hockey East All-Star honors.
DiPauli was a notable absence at Washington’s recent prospect development camp. More on that, per CSN Mid Atlantic:
[DiPauli] has attended previous Caps development camps, so the club decided not to invite him this summer.
According to a team spokesman the Caps remain interested in signing DiPauli by the NHL’s Aug. 15 deadline.
ESPN corroborated DiPauli’s interest in signing with the Caps, but it’s not surprising to hear he’s looking for opportunities with another organization.
Tampa Bay has avoided Friday’s scheduled arbitration hearing with forward Vladislav Namestnikov, agreeing to a two-year, $3.875M deal on Tuesday evening, per ESPN.
Namestnikov, 23, had a breakout campaign last year, scoring 14 goals and 35 points in 80 games — all career highs. The former first-round pick also appeared in 17 playoff games for the Bolts, scoring a goal and three points while helping the club to the Eastern Conference Final.
Coming off a one-year deal in which he made $874,125, the diminutive Russian gets a nice pay bump with this latest contract, and a bit of security with the two-year term. He should play a fairly integral role next season, coming off a year in which he finished tied for fourth on the team in goals, with Tyler Johnson.
But while tonight may be about Namestnikov, it’s another Russian forward in Tampa Bay that everybody now has their eyes on — Nikita Kucherov, the playoff scoring sensation that declined to file for arbitration, but still requires a new deal.
Given some of the big-money contracts GM Steve Yzerman has handed out this summer — namely those to Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn — the Kucherov negotiations are definitely ones to keep an eye on.
Talks ongoing between Wild and Dumba, meeting expected soon
A good puck mover with offensive skills — and a right-handed shot — Dumba is definitely a commodity. What’s more, logic suggests the Wild could opt to move him, given the long-term financial commitments to fellow defensemen Ryan Suter (signed through 2025 at $7.53 million), Jonas Brodin (2021 at $4.16M), Jared Spurgeon (2020, $5.18M) and Marco Scandella (2020, $4M).
Minnesota has some other young defensive prospects in the system, too.
There’s former Gophers standout Mike Reilly, Miami of Ohio product Louis Belpedio and Gustav Olofsson, the 46th overall pick in ’13 that’s been honing his game in AHL Iowa (and made his NHL debut last season).
Though he’s slowed down in recent years, Rosehill has long been known as an extremely active fighter. At no time was this more evident than during the ’08-09 campaign, when he fought a staggering 33 times (yeah, thirty-three) while playing for AHL Norfolk.
Rosehill last played in the NHL during the ’13-14 campaign, scoring two goals in 34 games for the Flyers — while racking up 90 PIM.
Here’s an example of some of his most famous handiwork:
As mentioned above, the EIHL has landed a few notable ex-NHL fighters. Cam Janssen, Kevin Westgarth, Paul Bissonnette and Tom Sestito have all played there.