Max Pacioretty, Dougie Hamilton

PHT Morning Skate: Habs, Bruins play historic ninth Game 7

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After last night, we know that the Chicago Blackhawks will extend their defense of the Stanley Cup to the Western Conference Final at a minimum and the New York Rangers will play in the Eastern Conference Final for the third time since their championship 1993-94 campaign.

Who those squads will play remains to be seen, but we won’t have to wait for much longer to find out..

Game 7: Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins [Series tied at 3-3] (7:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

This is the ninth time Montreal and Boston have played each other in a Game 7, which is the most in the history of North American pro sports, per NHL.com. The rivalry between these teams might be old, but they don’t have to thumb through an NHL history book to find reasons to play with intensity tonight.

The heated finish of Montreal’s 4-0 victory over Boston Monday night wasn’t about the days of the Original Six.

After the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien fought against the notion that Boston was the instigator of that melee and challenged the idea that the Bruins are the villains in this series. Either way, that incident will likely be on both teams’ minds going into tonight’s game at the TD Garden. Which would probably be fine by Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.

“I hope their crowd is louder than in here [Bell Center.] I hope it gets nasty,” Subban said, “I hope it gets dirty because at the end of the game when you’re shaking hands, whoever wins, that’s what the feeling’s all about.”

Game 6: Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings [Anaheim leads series 3-2] (9:30 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Ducks broke the trend of the home team losing in this series with their 4-3 victory on Monday. Now the Los Angeles Kings will face elimination for the fifth time this season.

“To win four games against [the Kings] is going to be the toughest job this team will ever face,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said, per the Los Angeles Daily News.

Certainly the Kings have been in worst situations before. They fell behind 3-0 against the San Jose Sharks and managed to win four straight to advance to the second round. So what’s two in a row?

Rookie goalie John Gibson is likely to be back between the pipes tonight for the Ducks after he earned a 28-save shutout in Game 4 and stopped 39 shots Monday night. His potential was recognized long before this series started, but he’s still just 20 years old and these games are only going to get harder.

“A lot of pressure on him now,” Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said. “A lot of pressure on him.”

Then again, he won’t be doing it alone. He’s got an experienced team in front of him that’s proven time and time again capable of standing up to a fierce opponent like the Kings.

Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

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Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

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People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

“He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

Is this time different?

Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percentage in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

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For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

(It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.

Blue Jackets move back to first in Metro, NHL after beating Hurricanes

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 7:  Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to the start of the game against the New York Rangers on January 7, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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After stumbling for a bit, Tuesday was a reassuring night for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus moved back to the top of the Metropolitan Division (and thus, the NHL) because they now match the Washington Capitals’ 64 points but have more wins (30 to 29) and hold a game in hand.

Also comforting for Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the Blue Jackets net, allowing one goal on 25 shots.

They were probably also happy to see Brandon Dubinsky enjoy a strong night (two goals) and Boone Jenner collect an assist and this absolute beauty of a goal:

The Hurricanes actually did hold a 1-0 lead in this game, but it lasted all of 11 seconds, as that Jenner goal erased that advantage.

The Blue Jackets face the Senators in Columbus on Thursday and then host the Hurricanes once again on Saturday. They follow that up with five straight road games and six of seven away from home beginning on Jan. 22. Columbus will pass another big test if they can stick with the Capitals and the rest of the NHL’s best through that stretch.