Pre-game reading: Some appreciation for the Presidents’ Trophy

— Up top, Kevin Shattenkirk is asked about the Capitals winning another Presidents’ Trophy, and replies: “We don’t want to be known as regular-season champions.”

— Of course, everyone knows Washington’s under tremendous pressure to win its first Stanley Cup. But for Caps blog Japers’ Rink, a second straight Presidents’ Trophy deserves to be celebrated and appreciated: “Perhaps some fans feel the only way they can be happy as a fan is to see their team win the Cup, but that seems like a pretty depressing way to enjoy something that, ultimately, is meant as entertainment. The journey should be part of the fun, even if it ends in heartbreak.” (Japers’ Rink)

— A Q&A with outspoken agent Allan Walsh, who says the NHL’s decision to skip the 2018 Olympics is “creating a poisonous atmosphere as we inch closer to the next round of collective bargaining. It’s really difficult to have the league kick the players in the groin and then say how much they want to work with them.” (ESPN)

— Another Q&A, this one a little more uplifting. It’s with Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, who believes bouncing around the minors as a player helped him become a better coach. “If I’d played regularly in the NHL, I probably would’ve taken a lot of things for granted and not learned as much as I had to do when you were in the minors. When you’re getting called up, getting sent down, seeing the effects of different players all over the place in different situations, whether it’s getting released, getting called up, getting sent down, that’s how you become a leader and a communicator.” (Sports Illustrated)

— The Sedin twins are only signed for one more year in Vancouver. And according to Henrik, it’s either re-sign with the Canucks or retire. “If they see a future for us then we might have another year in us here after next year. If not, I don’t think we’re prepared to go anywhere else.” (FanRag)

— A profile of Swiss center Nico Hischier, potentially the first overall draft pick this summer. “He’s got world-class skills, great hands, great vision, but he’s also our best defensive player,” said Halifax GM Cam Russell. “When you have a player that is your most skilled and basically your best player on the team, and he’s also your best defensive player, it provides great leadership for your younger players.”

Enjoy the games!

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    Longtime Berenson assistant Pearson named new Michigan coach

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    Michigan went the familiar route in replacing legendary head coach Red Berenson.

    Mel Person, who spent 23 years as Berenson’s assistant before taking the head gig at Michigan Tech, has been named the ninth head coach in UM Hockey history, the school announced on Monday.

    “I am thrilled to select Mel to lead our hockey program and for him to return home to U-M following tremendous success in leading the Michigan Tech program,” said director of athletics Warde Manuel. “I’ve known Mel for years and experienced his leadership ability when I was the sport administrator for hockey and he was an assistant under Red (Berenson).

    “Mel’s qualifications are well known throughout the hockey community and reach far beyond his ability to coach. Simply put, I couldn’t have selected a finer person to lead our ice hockey program into the future.”

    Pearson, 58, took Michigan Tech to a pair of NCAA Tournaments during his six years on the job. Several players advanced to the NHL on his watch including Chicago’s Tanner Kero, Edmonton’s Jujhar Khaira and New Jersey’s Blake Pietila.

    Two weeks ago, Berenson stepped down from his post at Michigan after 33 years on the job. Together, he and Pearson captured two national championships together.

    Backstrom believes Caps are ‘underdogs’ against Pens

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    The Washington Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy by seven points over the Pittsburgh Penguins this season, but someone forgot to tell Nicklas Backstrom.

    Heading into their second-round matchup against Pittsburgh, Backstrom believes the Capitals are the underdogs in the series, per beat reporter Isabelle Khurshudyan.

    Well Nicklas, that’s one way to look at it.

    Backstrom is clearly trying to take some of the pressure off of his team’s shoulders, but maybe he’s onto something.

    As you may remember, a similar situation arose last year. The Capitals had more points than any other team in 2015-16, but that didn’t stop them from being eliminated by these same Penguins in the second round. Eventually, Pittsburgh went on to hoist the Stanley Cup.

    This time, the Capitals won’t have to worry about star defenseman Kris Letang, as he’s out with an upper-body injury. Pittsburgh was able to overcome the Letang injury (Matt Murray too) in round one against Columbus, but Washington is a different animal.

    Even without Letang, getting by Pittsburgh won’t be easy, especially when stars like Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby are rolling.

    Malkin finished the first round with two goals and an incredible 11 points in five games, while Kessel and Crosby had eight and seven points respectively against Columbus.

    Things were a little more difficult offensively for Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, as they posted six, three and three points in six games against the Leafs.

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who has the most points and it doesn’t matter who the underdog is in the series either. All that counts is advancing through to the next round.

    PHT Morning Skate: Are Thornton and Marleau done in San Jose?

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    –After reaching the Stanley Cup Final last year, the San Jose Sharks lasted just one round in 2017. With both Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1st, could their time in San Jose be over? We know that Logan Couture wants both players to come back, but would that be the right decision? Allowing them to leave could thrust young players into roles they’re not ready for, but keeping them around and icing a similar team could lead to another first-round exit. (Mercury News)

    –The Philadelphia Flyers took a step back this season, as they failed to make the playoffs, but at least the future appears to be bright. They’ve managed to stockpile quality prospects and their farm team finished with the second best record in the AHL. (Philly.com)

    –Former NHLer Brandon Prust spent a couple of months hanging around the Leafs earlier this season, but he never ended up getting a contract so he went off to Germany. Prust said the experience was great, but he was a little frustrated that Toronto decided to acquire players like Eric Fehr and Brian Boyle instead of giving him a shot. “I feel I belonged there and I could have helped that team; but what are you going to do? That’s hockey. I felt they really needed a guy like me; and I know I could have helped them. Then they go and make trades for players similar to me. It’s tough.” (Yahoo)

    –Justin Bieber made an appearance at the ACC last night. He was wearing a custom Leafs jersey, and he seemed to be pretty into it. Unfortunately for Biebs, his team couldn’t extend the series to seven games. (BarDown)

    –The Toronto Maple Leafs pushed the Washington Capitals as much as they could, but they just ran out of steam in Game 6. Check out the highlights from the Caps’ 2-1 OT win by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    Braden Holtby, Sergei Bobrovsky and Carey Price were named finalists for the Vezina Trophy. The Hockey News makes a case for each of the three goaltenders, but Bobrovsky’s gotta be considered the favorite.  Jared Clinton writes: “It’s not just Bobrovsky’s base numbers that are impressive, either. His underlying numbers makes his case further. The only goaltending with 1,000-plus minutes at 5-on-5 to post a better SP than Bobrovsky’s .939 mark was Craig Anderson.” (The Hockey News)

    –It sounds like Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski is pretty confident that Auston Matthews is going to walk away with the Calder Trophy this year:

    2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs second-round schedule

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    Time to get your ducks in a row (Anaheim or otherwise), as the second-round schedule has been released.

    As you can see, the West series begin on Wednesday while the East ones kick into gear on Thursday. Read up on the matchups here.

    For the sixth consecutive year, every Stanley Cup playoff game will be presented nationally across the platforms of NBC Sports Group and select NBCUniversal networks.

    (Games listed by date, start time, teams and network.)

    EASTERN CONFERENCE

    Date TIME (ET) #1 Washington vs. #2 Pittsburgh Networks
    Thursday, April 27 7:30 p.m. Pittsburgh at Washington NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
    Saturday, April 29 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at Washington NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
    Monday, May 1 7:30 p.m. Washington at Pittsburgh NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
    Wednesday, May 3 7:30 p.m. Washington at Pittsburgh NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
    *Saturday, May 6 TBD Pittsburgh at Washington TBD
    *Monday, May 8 TBD Washington at Pittsburgh TBD
    *Wednesday, May 10 TBD Pittsburgh at Washington TBD

    Date TIME (ET) #2 Ottawa vs. #4 NY Rangers Networks
    Thursday, April 27 7 p.m. NY Rangers at Ottawa CNBC, CBC, TVA Sports
    Saturday, April 29 3 p.m. NY Rangers at Ottawa NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
    Tuesday, May 2 7 p.m. Ottawa at NY Rangers NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
    Thursday, May 4 7:30 p.m. Ottawa at NY Rangers NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
    *Saturday, May 6 TBD NY Rangers at Ottawa TBD
    *Tuesday, May 9 TBD Ottawa at NY Rangers TBD
    *Thursday, May 11 TBD NY Rangers at Ottawa TBD

    WESTERN CONFERENCE

    Date TIME (ET) #1 Anaheim vs. #2 Edmonton Networks
    Wednesday, April 26 10:30 p.m. Edmonton at Anaheim NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
    Friday, April 28 10:30 p.m. Edmonton at Anaheim NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
    Sunday, April 30 7 p.m. Anaheim at Edmonton NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
    Wednesday, May 3 10 p.m. Anaheim at Edmonton NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
    *Friday, May 5 TBD Edmonton at Anaheim TBD
    *Sunday, May 7 TBD Anaheim at Edmonton TBD
    *Wednesday, May 10 TBD Edmonton at Anaheim TBD

    Date TIME (ET) #3 St. Louis vs. #4 Nashville Networks
    Wednesday, April 26 8 p.m. Nashville at St. Louis NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
    Friday, April 28 8 p.m. Nashville at St. Louis NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
    Sunday, April 30 3 p.m. St. Louis at Nashville NBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
    Tuesday, May 2 9:30 p.m. St. Louis at Nashville NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
    *Friday, May 5 TBD Nashville at St. Louis TBD
    *Sunday, May 7 TBD St. Louis at Nashville TBD
    *Tuesday, May 9 TBD Nashville at St. Louis TBD

    Starting time and national broadcast information for games listed TBD will be announced when available.