Milan Lucic

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

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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.

WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Sharks at Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Pittsburgh Penguins fans sit outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.

Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.

The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.

Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Vlasic on the unenviable task of matching up against Crosby

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21:  Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 and Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada look on during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff against the United States on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
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Plenty of people believe that the San Jose Sharks’ defense is superior to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ personnel, but it’s one thing to be better on paper. When you’re on the ice, against a speedy and talented team, can you really stop the Penguins?

All signs point to sorely underrated Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic drawing the difficult assignment of trying to slow down Sidney Crosby.

Vlasic, a former Team Canada teammate of Crosby (as you can see from this post’s main image), realizes that he’ll have his hands full. In fact, he seems to believe that this will be an even tougher challenge than trying to solve St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

The fantastic all-around defender isn’t exactly expecting to reinvent the wheel in his strategy against Crosby.

“It will be the same as in the first three series,” Vlasic said, via The Hockey News. “We’re playing against the top players on every time – Sid, (Evgeni) Malkin and those types of guys for Pittsburgh. Me and (Justin Braun) will just keep doing what we did, taking away time and space and hopefully it works out.”

The two players have had glowing things to say about each other for some time, but don’t be surprised if this high-level competition turns those happy thoughts into hard feelings.

It stands as one of the matchups to watch in what could be a fresh and fascinating Stanley Cup Final.

Red Wings look to future in net … a future possibly without Howard

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 07:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on April 7, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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This summer looks like it could be one of changes for the Detroit Red Wings, even beyond the most obvious storyline of Pavel Datsyuk‘s future.

One area where the Red Wings would like to make some tweaks is in net, namely in trading Jimmy Howard. The Detroit Free-Press points out that GM Ken Holland admitted that moving the former franchise netminder “might be good for the organization.”

It’s reasonable to wonder what kind of market there will be for Howard, whose deal ($5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19) looks pretty tough to stomach on paper.

Maybe it’s best to consider the Red Wings’ options if Howard starts the 2016-17 season off on a strong note, or something of that nature. Perhaps an expansion draft could “solve” that problem if Detroit cannot find any takers?

The Red Wings remain forward-thinking and patient, which likely explains why the Free-Press focuses on their confidence with prospect Jared Coreau.

“In the big scheme of things, he’ll play in Grand Rapids for another year, but now we know he can play a lot of minutes if needed,” Goalie coach Jeff Salajko said. “Jimmy Howard played four years in the minors. We’re not rushing Jared, but he is going to be an NHL goalie, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”

In other words, a pairing of Petr Mrazek and Coreau wouldn’t just be a cost-effective duo … it might just be the Red Wings’ ideal scenario in the not-too-distant future.

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.