JaromeIginla

In praise of Jarome Iginla

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When Nathan Horton bolted Boston this summer, the Bruins’ top line had a sizable hole next to David Krejci and Milan Lucic — one the club hoped to fill by signing Jarome Iginla.

At the time, the deal made a lot of sense.

Today, it looks like a masterstroke.

Iginla’s meshed into Boston’s lineup as well as any free agent from last summer’s class (Jaromir Jagr’s been great in New Jersey, too). While everyone figured Iginla would be a good fit, not many expected he’d be this good; he leads the Bruins with 25 goals and reports of him “slowing down” in Pittsburgh (which were always exaggerated, given he had 23 points in 28 games as a Penguin) now appear to be a tad premature — Iginla’s actually gotten better as the season’s progressed, scoring 10 goals and 19 points over his last 15 games.

“It’s been great having him here,” Lucic said, per ESPN Boston. “You can see he’s obviously come into his own here and starting to feel good about himself. We all know what he can do from what he’s done in the past and he’s definitely a confident guy that’s always pushing for more.

“You see the little things in him that has made him so successful throughout his career and it’s starting to show more and more as this season goes on.”

In some ways, Iginla is a better fit for the Bruins than Horton was — specifically in the health department. Horton struggled with concussion and shoulder issues during his time in Boston whereas Iginla, known for his durability, has appeared in all 68 games for the B’s this year while averaging over 18 minutes per night.

(Not that Ironman Iggy is any surprise. Same guy, after all, that played in over 450 consecutive games for Calgary from 2007-12.)

The Bruins also seem to have embraced Iginla’s leadership qualities. This isn’t to diminish Horton’s presence, but he opted to leave Boston for Columbus in the search of a quieter, less-intense market. Iginla played in hockey-mad Calgary for years then joined Pittsburgh in a ballyhooed move, and has extensive experience serving as a captain.

It’s all stuff the B’s appreciate.

“He’s exactly what he was advertised as,” head coach Claude Julien said. “He’s a good team player, a hard worker, and a competitive guy. I can see why he had a letter in Calgary because he has that leadership quality in him.”

Looking ahead, it’s going to be very interesting to watch Iginla come playoff time. The B’s relied on veteran acquisitions in each of their last two Stanley Cup runs with Mark Recchi and Jaromir Jagr, but that pair had already won championships.

Iginla’s come close once before, losing Game 7 of the ’04 Final to Tampa Bay, but has never hoisted Lord Stanley’s mug. He’ll be looking to change that this spring.

PHT Morning Skate: Jim Craig doesn’t regret selling ‘Miracle on Ice’ memorabilia

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–These parents named their baby girl after Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. (ABC News)

–The  hockey card that helped inspire a Tragically Hip song. (Puck Junk)

–The fan who promised to get a tattoo of Gary Bettman if LA and Chicago were eliminated in the first round kept his word. (Bardown)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Sharks and Blues. (Top)

–Jim Craig doesn’t regret auctioning off most of his “Miracle on Ice” memorabilia. (Yahoo)

–A Q & A with former Quebec Nordiques forward Peter Stastny. (ESPN)

–Former Flyers coach Craig Berube breaks down Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. (NHL)

Hitch: ‘I see the devastation in our locker room’

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Despite a late comeback attempt, the 2015-16 season came to an end for the St. Louis Blues, as they lost the Western Conference Final in six games to the San Jose Sharks.

And with Wednesday’s loss, the off-season will settle upon the Blues. It will be an intriguing one in St. Louis, starting with their head coach Ken Hitchcock. He’s on a one-year deal and he has already outlined that he’s fine with taking short-term contracts. But is an appearance in the conference final enough to solidify his place behind the St. Louis bench for next year?

The Blues have, according to General Fanager, five pending unrestricted free agent forwards, including Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak, Steve Ott, and most notably Troy Brouwer and David Backes.

Backes, 32, is the team’s captain and coming off a 21-goal, 45-point regular season, which is a decline from the numbers — 26 goals and 58 points — he posted the year before. Brouwer, 30, enjoyed the best post-season of his career, with eight goals and 13 points in 20 games, and he could potentially cash in on that this summer.

However, while there are questions ahead for the Blues, the emotional toll this loss took was clear.

“I see the devastation in our locker room right now. Guys aren’t even able to speak. I’m more worried about our guys right now, to be honest with you. We got some guys that are pretty shook up right now,” said Hitchcock to reporters.

“I’m not going to talk to them for a day or two. They need their space with each other. They’ve bonded together here better than any team I’ve coached in the last 10 years. They need their time together. They don’t need me interrupting them right now. We’ll talk at an appropriate time. But right now they need to be with each other.”

 

Video: So, Joe Thornton is pretty stoked about playing in the Stanley Cup Final

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‘Jumbo’ Joe Thornton is off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in his career. The San Jose Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

And yeah, the 36-year-old Thornton, a veteran of 1,367 regular season games with 1,341 career regular season points, is pretty excited for both himself and his team when it comes to this feat.

It hasn’t been easy in San Jose. It hasn’t been easy for the franchise, for the fans, for the players, for Thornton or for Patrick Marleau, who is also 36 years old and has played his entire career (1,411 regular season games) in San Jose.

There have been playoff failures and a regular season disappointment last year. There has been a coaching change and harsh words exchanged between Thornton and management — more specifically, GM Doug Wilson — and an organizational decision to remove the captaincy from Thornton.

After all that, however, the Sharks are four wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Did we mention Joe Thornton is excited about the final?

Franchise history: The Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final

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For the first time in franchise history, the San Jose Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final.

This, after a monumental and historical collapse in the first round to the L.A. Kings two years ago. This, after they failed to make the playoffs a year ago, resulting in a coaching change. There have been other post-season disappointments along the way before that, too.

Those difficult times may never be forgotten. But the Sharks have rebounded, and it culminated with a 5-2 victory over the visiting St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday. Fans at SAP Center could feel it, too, especially after Joel Ward scored his second goal of the night, giving San Jose a three-goal lead early in the third period.

The Blues attempted a furious comeback but couldn’t quite complete it.

The Sharks this year have eliminated the Kings, Nashville Predators and now the Blues in that order. They await the winner of the Eastern Conference Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins.

 

The Sharks got off to the perfect start in the series clincher versus St. Louis. Joe Pavelski recorded his 13th goal, which leads all players in this post-season, and the Sharks continued to roll from there.

Ward increased the lead in the second period and again in the third. His second of the night proved to be the winner. Joonas Donskoi‘s goal, making it 4-0 San Jose before the midway point of the third period, proved critical as the Blues tried to spark a desperation comeback.

The Blues’ leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko (40 goals, 74 points in the regular season) was held off the score sheet through the first five games of this series, before finally striking for both St. Louis goals in Game 6.