Milan Lucic

PHT Morning Skate: Bruins-Red Wings finally drop the puck


We’re three days into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and now we’ll finally have all eight series underway after tonight. It could wind up being a case of saving the best for last when it comes to Boston and Detroit, a pair of other series drop the puck for Game 2 in Tampa and Anaheim.

After last night’s action that saw a triple-overtime winner by St. Louis and a comeback overtime win by Colorado, the bar might be set a little high tonight. It’s the most wonderful time of year.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,500 Fantasy Hockey league for Friday’s NHL games. It’s $10 to join and first prize is $350. Starts Friday at 7pm ETHere’s the FanDuel link.

Game 2: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens [Montreal leads series 1-0] (7:00 p.m. ET — CNBC)

The Lightning will look to bounce back after watching Dale Weise beat them in overtime of Game 1. If there’s someone they have to worry about though it’s Daniel Briere. While Briere isn’t the dynamic scorer he once was, his presence on the Habs’ fourth line made them a difference maker against the Lightning fourth line.

After all, asking young guys like Cedric Paquette to have to wrangle Briere is asking a lot for a bunch that doesn’t play much and may not have a lot of NHL experience. We’ll see how Tampa coach Jon Cooper makes adjustments tonight against Michel Therrien. One thing’s for sure, we’ll see Carey Price bounce back stronger which means Anders Lindback will need to counter equally to even up the series.

Game 1: Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

This may be the series most fans are most curious about. The Bruins are the top team in the league and are favorites against the Red Wings, but there’s always something about Detroit that gives everyone pause. Making the playoffs 23 seasons in a row will help add to that, but the Wings have the weapons to be a perilous first round opponent for the Bruins.

Pavel Datsyuk is healthy and playing well and having him join younger guys like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Tomas Jurco gives the Wings a lot of skill and speed. Detroit took three out of four this season from Boston, but the playoffs are a different animal and that means seeing more from Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and the best out of Tuukka Rask.

The Bruins will want to get physical, but the Wings resist and steer away from that type of play. If Boston is to roll through the East this season, they’re going to earn it against Detroit.

Game 2: Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars [Anaheim leads series 1-0] (10:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Ducks showed the Stars what playoff hockey was all about early in Game 1. After jumping out to a big early lead, it looked like they were ready to cruise, but the Stars found their legs late and gave them a scare before ultimately losing 4-3. Don’t expect the Stars to come in starstruck tonight.

The upside for Anaheim is they’ll likely have captain Ryan Getzlaf back in after he took a puck in the face late in Game 1. You may have seen what his face looked like after that from his brother on Twitter. That’s good news as they’ll need him to help keep Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin occupied and away from the Ducks net.

Expect the Stars to come out a bit tougher in Game 2 to help goalie Kari Lehtonen out. Leaving your goalie hung out to dry at the start of a playoff game isn’t something to be proud of and they’ll tighten things up to prevent it from happening again.

Kyle Connor expected to be healthy scratch for Jets

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23:  Goalie Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers pushes Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets  during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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Jets rookie Kyle Connor played just 10:09 in Sunday’s outdoor loss to the Oilers, and tonight in Dallas it appears he’ll be a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career.

Connor was not among the 12 Winnipeg forwards taking line rushes this morning. The 19-year-old has just one assist in his first five games as a Jet. He’s a minus-5 and has also struggled in terms of possession, as evidenced by his 38 percent Corsi.

The 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Connor spent one year at the University of Michigan before leaving school to turn pro. He’s eligible to be sent to the AHL this season, something the Jets are no doubt considering.

Winnipeg has a number of potential call-ups on its farm club, including Marko Dano, Quinton Howden, Andrew Copp, Nicolas Petan, and Jack Roslovic.

Babcock’s had his fill of goalie questions, thanks

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Head coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on prior to the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Mike Babcock is aware Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good this season.

He’s also aware that Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good the last few seasons.

Thing is, he doesn’t want to talk about it.

“It’s five games in, isn’t it?” Babcock replied on Tuesday, when asked about the Leafs’ shaky netminding so far, specifically the play of Frederik Andersen. “Let’s just take a deep breath here.”

And here’s a transcript of what followed (courtesy Sportsnet)!

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night said the Leafs goaltending has been lousy this year.

Babcock: Who did?

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night — Don Cherry.

Babcock: Oh, OK. Well now that I know where I’m getting my facts from, here we go. Come on. Let’s move on. What’s next here? Holy [expletive].

Reporter: No, but seriously, it’s been an issue for this market probably since Ed Belfour left, and I’m wondering if there’s anything to that.

Babcock: But I’m not dealing with that. This is what I would tell you. We think we have a really good goaltender. At the World Cup I had three outstanding goaltenders, and they all talked about how much time it usually takes to get ready.

Our guy didn’t have that opportunity because of his injury. We’re real comfortable with him. Do we think he’s played as good as he’s capable of playing? No. Do we think he’s going to? Yes.

Babcock’s right to suggest it’s too early to start grading Andersen. First, there’s the adjustment from playing behind a good team in a small market (Anaheim) to playing behind a “growing team” in a massive, pressure-packed market like Toronto.

There’s also the additional pressure that came with Andersen’s acquisition price (a first- and second-round pick) and his subsequent contract extension (five years, $25 million).

The injury suffered playing for Denmark in Olympic qualifying was definitely a setback, as there’s no doubt some games for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey would’ve better prepared Andersen for the season.

Still, it’s hard to look at his numbers — 1-0-3, .879 save percentage, 3.63 GAA — and not be at least a little concerned.

Unless you’re Mike Babcock, that is.

Related: The list of struggling netminders is a long one, as it’s been goals galore to start the year

Elliott gets the start in return to St. Louis

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Matt Stajan #18 and Lance Bouma #17 of the Calgary Flames congratulate Brian Elliott #1 after a shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Flames defeated the Blachawks 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Brian Elliott will be in Calgary’s crease against his old team tonight in St. Louis.

Even though Elliott played last night in Chicago, it was an easy decision for Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan. Elliott had easily his best game of the season against the Blackhawks, stopping 31 of 33 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory. The 31-year-old turned away all seven Chicago shooters in the breakaway competition, helping the Flames to just their second win of the young season.

“I definitely wanted that one,” Elliott told reporters afterwards. “We haven’t been playing like we wanted to and the guys came out and had a heck of an effort.”

Elliott started 164 games for the Blues during his five years in St. Louis. Last season, he backstopped them to their first conference final since 2001. He was then traded to Calgary in June, paving the way for Jake Allen to become the full-time starter in St. Louis.

Related: The list of struggling goalies is a long one

Crosby on track to make season debut tonight

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 30: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins waits for a face-off against the 
New Jersey Devils during the third period at the Prudential Center on January 30, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Yesterday, Sidney Crosby participated in a full-contact practice.

Today, it appears he’ll make his season debut when the Penguins host the Panthers tonight in Pittsburgh.

“He had a strong practice this morning,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club. “Everything is pointing in the right direction. If he’s comfortable, he could play.”

Crosby has missed just six games due to the concussion he sustained during practice on Oct. 7. Given his history with concussions, if he plays tonight, it has to be considered a best-case scenario. Certainly, there had been fear he could be out much longer.

For the record, Crosby told reporters he’ll be a game-time decision.