NashRichards

What does $20M get? For the Rangers, one point in the Stanley Cup Final

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Here are the stats from New York’s three highest-paid forwards — Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis — through the first three games of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final:

Nash: No goals, no assists, minus-3 rating.

Richards: No goals, no assists, minus-4 rating.

St. Louis: One goal, no assists, minus-4 rating.

Given the amount of money the Blueshirts have committed to this trio this season — $7.8 million for Nash, $6.7 million for Richards, $5.6 million for St. Louis — it stands to reason the club is probably expecting more production from its “big three.”

Just ask Richards, who deep-sixed the notion all they need is some puck luck.

“You don’t talk about getting bounces,” Richards said on Tuesday. “It’d be nice to have them, but you don’t just talk and hope they come. You score a goal at the right time that helps and then you’ve gotta create more, get to the inside more.

“They’ve turned pucks over, we’ve turned pucks over, but for some reason it seems like ours are finding a way into the net. Their turnovers, either there is a big save or something close. But that’s an easy way to look at it. We’ve gotta find a way.”

That Richards, Nash and St. Louis have failed to generate any offense this series is one of the reasons New York finds itself in an 0-3 hole. St. Louis, to his credit, was a pretty productive in the three previous rounds and leads the Blueshirts in both goals (seven) and is second in points (14); Richards has been less productive (11 points in 23 games), though hardly surprising given his decline over the last two seasons, and all the pending buyout talk.

Which brings us to Nash.

To say No. 61 has struggled this postseason would be a major understatement — his 10 points put him on par with Jussi Jokinen and Torey Krug, guys that were eliminated two rounds ago (or Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny, who didn’t get past the opening round.) The style of play that saw Nash score 30-plus goals seven times — power, strength, ability to drive the net — has seemingly vanished; when Nash was put back on the Ranger power play late in Game 3 and created a scoring chance by driving to the middle of the ice, it was like watching an overwhelmed boxer land one really nice counter punch — an impressive flash, but one that wouldn’t change the outcome of the fight.

To be clear, Nash can’t be blamed for New York’s power play woes. He’s been largely absent from a unit that’s gone 1-for-14 this series — which brings us back to Richards and St. Louis, who’ve been front and center. Richards had an eye-popping 8:47 of man-advantage time in Game 3 while St. Louis had 4:38, yet the two could only muster four shots on goal.

“You got to finish in this game,” head coach Alain Vigneault lamented on Monday night. “It’s a performance-oriented business. Power play had some looks, but it didn’t finish.”

It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, Vigneault does with Richards, Nash and St. Louis moving forward. He indirectly called out the Richards-St.Louis-Hagelin unit prior to Game 3 but stayed away from throwing his lines in the blender during the contest, suggesting afterward that putting Nash on the PP was about as big of a shakeup as he had in his arsenal.

That, really, might sum up the situation on the whole. Vigneault’s playing the hand he’s been dealt here; he’s gone the entire postseason without Nash and Richards contributing much offensively and St. Louis has now gone silent as well. Sometimes, that happens. It’s also why the Rangers are talking about puck luck and bounces and breaks needing to go their way — there just aren’t many other answers or solutions to give.

Still…for $20 million, you’d think they’d be getting more.

PHT Extra: Mike Halford and Jason Brough discuss what the Rangers have to do in order to make a comeback attempt.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.