On Crawford, Quick and the Western Conference Final goalfest

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The last two goalies to win the Stanley Cup are currently up against one another in the Western Conference Final, but it’s hardly been a puck-stopping spectacle through the first five games.

Corey Crawford: 2-3, .882 save percentage, 3.41 GAA

Jonathan Quick: 3-2, .894 save percentage, 2.83 GAA

Quick’s best game of the series probably came in Game 2, when he stopped 23 of 25 shots — several of the highlight-reel variety — to help the Kings win their first-ever playoff game at the United Center.

Crawford’s best? The series opener was good (25 saves in a 3-1 win) but last night’s Game 5 OT win likely bests it, especially since Crawford — facing elimination for the first time this postseason — slammed the door shut for the final 49 minutes of action after allowing this softie to give L.A. a 4-3 lead:

What’s most surprising about developments on both the Quick and Crawford fronts is that, prior to the Western Conference Final, both were playing exceptionally well and posting great numbers. In Round 2, Crawford allowed just 12 goals in six games against the Wild, posting a .926 save percentage; Quick, facing elimination in Games 6 and 7 against Anaheim, stopped 46 of 49 shots (a .939 save percentage).

So… what’s gone wrong in this series?

“We haven’t been playing as well defensively this series, compared to the other two series. It’s more a reflection of how the whole team plays, and not just Crow,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “Especially on the penalty kill, we’ve been letting in way too many goals.

“We can make an overall better effort to play defense.”

As for the Kings? Consider what Drew Doughty said (per LA Kings Insider) about last night’s first period, in which the Kings surrendered three goals in the first 11 minutes:

On the Game 5 loss:

It was a crappy loss and I’m not happy about that obviously. We would have liked to have closed it out tonight, but what can you do? We’re going back home and that’s where we’re comfortable.

[Reporter: Was it a crappy loss because you gave up so many goals?]

Yeah, for sure and the start we had was awful.

Poor defensive coverage. Slow starts. The calling cards, really, of teams trying to protect their goalies. But make no mistake about it — regardless of what the Chicago or L.A. skaters say, the goaltending hasn’t been great this series and neither ‘tender has stolen a game like they have in previous rounds.

(Quick’s signature steal was Game 2 against the Ducks, when L.A. was outshot 37-16 yet won 3-1; for Crawford it was Game 6 of the Wild series, as Chicago was outshot 35-27 yet won 2-1 in OT… at Xcel, no less.)

Will one of these two Cup-winning goalies stamp their authority on this series in Game 6?

Or, if it gets there, Game 7?

Stanley Cup Final odds: Penguins open as favorites over Predators

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The 2017 Stanley Cup Final is set with the Pittsburgh Penguins, continuing their quest to repeat as champions, facing the Nashville Predators.

Both teams come in missing some key players (Kris Letang, Pittsburgh; Ryan Johansen, Nashville) but both still have plenty of star player with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban, Filip Forsberg and the rest of Nashville’s defense headlining the series.

According to the folks at Bovada, the Penguins open the series as favorites to win it over the Predators.

NHL Stanley Cup Finals Series Price
Nashville Predators +135 (27/20)
Pittsburgh Penguins -155 (20/31)

The series begins on Monday night in Pittsburgh.

Related

2017 Stanley Cup Final Schedule: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Nashville Predators

Canucks sign free agent defenseman Philip Holm to one-year deal

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The Vancouver Canucks announced on Friday that they have signed free agent defenseman Philip Holm to a one-year, entry-level contract.

Before signing with the Canucks Holm had been rumored to be on the verge of joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that obviously did not come together.

“Philip is a mobile, two-way defenseman who adds depth to our blue line,” said Canucks general manager Jim Benning in a statement released by the team. “He made strides in his development last season with Vaxjo and played a strong series with Sweden at the World Championships We’re pleased to welcome him to the Canucks organization.”

The 25-year-old Holm has spent the past seven seasons playing professionally in Sweden for Vaxjo HC and Djurgardens IF.

He is regarded as a smooth skating, puck-moving defenseman and had a pretty strong season for Vaxjo this past year, scoring four goals and adding 17 assists in 52 games. He was the top-scoring defenseman on the team.

He also had three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games for Sweden at the 2017 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championships. Sweden won the Gold Medal at the tournament by defeating Canada in the championship game.

The Canucks already have six defensemen under contract for 2017-18 (and they do not seem to be in a hurry to trade any of them) but it was a unit that clearly needs an upgrade, so Holm should be an opportunity to make an impact next season.

Sabres fire AHL coach Dan Lambert

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The Buffalo Sabres continued to overhaul their organization under new general manager Jason Botterill on Friday when they announced that Dan Lambert, the coach of the Rochester Americans, their AHL affiliate, has been relieved of his duties.

“I would like to thank Dan for his hard work and contributions to our organization during the last two seasons and I wish him the best in the future,” said Botterill in a statement released by the team.

“I felt this was the right move for both the Sabres and Amerks and we will begin the process of searching for a new head coach immediately.”

The 2016-17 season was Lambert’s only season as the head coach. The team ended up finishing with a 32-41-3 mark.

When he was hired by the Sabres Botterill talked about wanting to improve the team in Rochester and this appears to be the first step in that process. The entire Sabres organization took a pretty significant step backwards this season with the NHL team finishing with a worse record than it did a year ago. That resulted in general manager Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma all being replaced.

The Sabres have yet to hire a replacement for Bylsma.

Now both of the top teams in the organization are in need of a new head coach.

Report: KHL team in talks with Capitals’ Orlov

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After losing in the second-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs again and entering an offseason where they have several free agents, it is expected that the Washington Capitals roster is going to be look very, very different next season.

One of those upcoming free agents already seems to be drawing some interest, and not from an NHL team.

According to a report from Sport-Express’ Igor Eronko, the KHL’s CSKA Moscow is in talks with defenseman Dmitry Orlov.

Orlov, who turns 26 in July, is slated to be a restricted free agent this offseason. He has played in every game for the Capitals the past two seasons and has emerged as a solid defenseman on the team’s blue line. He has posted pretty dominant possession numbers the past two seasons and has tallied 29 and 33 points during that stretch. He played nearly 20 minutes per game for the Capitals this season and should be in line for a pretty significant pay raise.

Along with the Orlov news, the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan mentioned on Twitter that another KHL team may also be in talks with restricted free agent Evgeny Kuznetsov, though she downplayed the possibility of him leaving. Given that Kuznetsov is one of the top offensive players in the league that would certainly be a shocking move, but it still seems like a long-shot to think that he would leave the NHL.