‘Nothing better than playoffs in a big market,’ says Martin St. Louis

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Go ahead and accuse me of reading too much into a quote, but I found this one from Martin St. Louis (courtesy NHL.com’s Tal Pinchevsky) rather interesting…

Ever since St. Louis demanded and got his trade out of Tampa Bay, the conversation about playoff opportunity has been prevalent. He left a Bolts team to join very similar a Rangers team, at least in terms of standings — Tampa has 95 points to New York’s 93, both are going to finish either second or third in their respective divisions, and both are within striking distance of the 45-win plateau (the Rangers need one more, the Lightning two.)

Prior to the Ben Bishop injury, you’d be hard pressed to say the Rangers were an overwhelming Cup contender compared to Tampa Bay…which could lead you to speculate that, just maybe (and for lack of a better explanation), St. Louis thought it’d be cooler to win a Cup in New York than win another one in Tampa Bay.

Since neither St. Louis nor the Lightning would divulge reasons as to why he wanted out — the rift with GM Steve Yzerman over the Canadian Olympic snub was the prevailing thought, but never confirmed — many were left to speculate. Sure, St. Louis referenced the desire to play closer to his home base in Connecticut (“I always felt as my kids got older, I would try to come here,” he said). But after 13 seasons in Tampa, he could’ve waited until the offseason to demand a trade if that was the case — what would’ve a few extra months been?

Well, they might’ve been a lot for someone that had been thinking about leaving for quite some time.

Per the Tampa Bay Times:

St. Louis said he considered leaving years ago, especially after then-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie traded defenseman Dan Boyle in July 2008.

“But I’ll be honest with you,” St. Louis said. “(Steven Stamkos) comes along (in the 2008-09 season) and it’s a lot of fun playing with Stammer. There were things pulling me in, but every year the equation changes. There are moving parts. You assess.”

The most recent assessment:

“One of my biggest things, honestly, is I never see my kids play hockey,” St. Louis said. “Just, for instance, my oldest has gone, since September, to Detroit three times, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Rochester, Atlanta. You’ve got to go outside the state to play pretty good competition. My wife and dad flies with him. I’m not saying Florida hockey is no good, but if you want to play against good competition you have to go outside.”

There are more opportunities in the Northeast, St. Louis said.

“It’s easier,” he said. “With the things between me and Steve [Yzerman] and you put in my kids, this was the best thing for everybody.”

A legit explanation. But hard to imagine Lightning fans agree with the last part.

Auston Matthews keeps goal streak alive, gives Leafs 1-0 lead in third

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These are the moments Toronto Maple Leafs fans were dreaming about when they drafted Auston Matthews. At least those bold enough to picture such great things, so soon in his career.

Speaking of so soon … that’s not how you’d describe a 1-0 goal happening in the third period of a game in this Leafs – Washington Capitals series, but it took that long to break the ice in Game 6.

It took a very lucky bounce for the puck to find its way to Matthews … but the finish was pure skill. With that, the remarkable rookie now has a goal in four straight games (with an assist thrown in for good measure).

The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Marcus Johansson scored to tie it 1-1.

Things could get awfully nervous for Toronto as they try to force a decisive Game 7 in Washington, but that was a huge goal by Matthews either way.

Clarke MacArthur, Craig Anderson made Sens win that much more emotional

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It could have been over for Clarke MacArthur plenty of times during his turbulent NHL career. Scratch that, his turbulent hockey career.

His team walked away from his salary arbitration award. MacArthur’s seen plenty of people give up on him. And then, when he finally found a home with the Ottawa Senators, concussion issues threatened to end his playing days.

Yet, there he was on Sunday … drawing a penalty in overtime and then scoring on the ensuing power play to help the Senators advance beyond the Boston Bruins.

He didn’t deny that he imagined very different possibilities during his darker moments.

And, as uplifting as his story was – seriously, just watch this interview and try not to root for the guy – it wasn’t the only emotionally charged moment from Game 6.

Nicholle Anderson was on hand to cheer on Craig Anderson in this one, and the two were able to embrace after the contest:

As violent and intense as the playoffs can often be, MacArthur and Anderson reminded us of the gentler human side of it all.

Erik Karlsson played through hairline fractures in foot to help Sens advance

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Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins?

It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.

Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).

There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.

Hmm.

Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.

Gaudreau, Granlund and Tarasenko: 2017 Lady Byng finalists

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The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.

The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

(Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)

For more on the three finalists, click here.