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Many in NHL just fine with vague injury descriptions

Veteran coach Ken Hitchcock struck a nerve earlier this season when he decried the longstanding NHL practice of describing injuries in the vaguest terms possible.

An injury can be upper-body, lower-body or undisclosed, except Hitchcock and the Dallas Stars prefer to be more forthright. Defenseman Marc Methot had a knee injury, Martin Hanzal had a hamstring injury and Stephen Johns was dealing with concussion symptoms.

”Rather than go through the dance and play the big game, we just decided let’s get it out there so they can print it, move on and let’s get on with the subject of what’s going on on the team,” Hitchcock said.

This is a far cry from the world of the NFL, where teams must reveal specific injuries. Coaches and NHL officials point to gambling and fantasy football as driving forces behind those detailed NFL injury reports, noting hockey has far less of that; one NHL player even joked that it would be foolish for anyone to bet on the sport.

Yet more people are. Westgate sports book vice president Jay Kornegay said the addition and success of the Vegas Golden Knights has at least tripled the amount of bets placed on NHL games this season. He said the gambling public isn’t affected much by the information or lack thereof about injuries.

”There’s information out there if you really want to dissect the injury,” Kornegay said. ”There’s only maybe a handful of guys that might make a major impact, like (Connor) McDavid or (Auston) Matthews or someone like that. Could make maybe a 15-cent impact in the line, which is very minimal. Almost everybody else is like zero impact or maybe five cents impact. … It wouldn’t be like (Tom) Brady being out.”

The NHL represents less than 5 percent of the total amount bet at the Westgate, and less than 6 percent for online sports book Bovada.

League executives and coaches have little to no appetite to change things.

”I would ask the question, ‘Why is it important that you know everything?”’ Los Angeles Kings coach John Stevens said. ”I think sometimes it protects the player. Sometimes a player’s working through an injury. If he’s coming back, opponents might know. If it’s a knee injury, they might try to take advantage of it.”

The collective bargaining agreement doesn’t require any specificity be included in injury announcements. And that means they vary dramatically among the 31 teams.

NHL Injury Viz , which tracks information about player injuries and illnesses, ranks teams on an ”evasiveness index” based on how many injuries are called upper- or lower-body, undisclosed or soreness. Through Jan. 20 games, the Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers were labeled the most evasive, while the New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild were the most open.

When Washington Capitals winger Andre Burakovsky underwent surgery to repair a broken left thumb in October, the team announced it as such. Upon his return, Burakovsky wore extra padding and worried little about opponents hacking at his thumb to try to reinjure it.

”When I’m playing, I’m playing,” Burakovsky said. ”I don’t really focus on if they’re going to go after my thumb or whatever it is.”

The central debate over disclosure comes down to whether revealing specific injuries puts players in danger of being targeted. Hitchcock said ”there’s too much respect in the league” for that, but Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik disagreed.

”I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of guys, but there’s definitely more than a handful of (players) in the league that would target guys if they knew where they were hurt,” Orpik said. ”I don’t really see what you gain by releasing it.”

Hitchcock’s comments generated chatter around the league and a variety of opinions, but don’t expect the current system to change any time soon.

”At the end of the day, I’m not sure it’s really anybody’s right to know exactly what’s ailing a player,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. ”Perhaps there’s kind of fan interest in how long he’ll be gone, when he can be back to the lineup, etc., etc., but what the precise nature of the injury is I’m not sure is really appropriate for public consumption.”

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said he generally agrees with Hitchcock and doesn’t mind disclosing injuries, except he doesn’t like talking about head injuries. Jets coach Paul Maurice went the other way, saying teams have a ”responsibility” to show the NHL is handling concussions the right way but cited privacy concerns in the larger discussion about revealing specific injuries.

Then there’s Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters, who wouldn’t mind an NFL-like policy.

”It’d be nice if the NHL just said, hey, make it full disclosure. I’d have no problem with that – as long as it’s consistent across the board,” Peters said.

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

For more NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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    Bruins will way to Game 7 win against Maple Leafs

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    Once again, the Boston Bruins finished a Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, riding an overpowering third period. In the case of Wednesday’s game, the end result was a 7-4 win for the Bruins.

    The 2018 edition featured some similarities to the Bruins’ 5-4 win back in 2013.

    • A Maple Leafs team headed for the summer shaking their heads and with some serious soul-searching to do.
    • The heartache that comes with the Leafs giving up leads. Toronto was up 1-0, 2-1, and 4-3. This wasn’t a collapse of the “It was 4-1” variety, but the Maple Leafs squandered multiple leads nonetheless.

    • The Bruins simply ran away with things in the third period. Boston went from being down 4-3 to winning 7-4. That domination included the Bruins keeping the Maple Leafs from registering a shot on goal through the first eight minutes of the final frame.

    In the case of this latest Game 7, there were times when it seemed like the last shot on goal might be the winner.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    Really, it was a nightmare game for both goalies. Frederik Andersen‘s Game 7 heartache is no longer limited to his time with the Anaheim Ducks, as he gave up six goals, including a few that are likely to haunt him during the off-season. The Lightning must be licking their chops at the prospect of exploiting what might be a fragile goalie in Tuukka Rask; the Bruins ended up on top in this one, yet Rask gave up four goals on 24 shots.

    (Maybe a solid finish will help bolster his self-esteem? Rask stopped all eight Maple Leafs SOG in the third period after giving up those four goals on the first 18 shots he faced.)

    If you want to summarize Game 7 in one video clip, Jake DeBrusk‘s second goal of the night (and eventual game-winner) could suffice. The Bruins simply demanded this win, showing off their skill and will while flabbergasting the overmatched Maple Leafs and a struggling Andersen:

    Several players came up big on each side. DeBrusk scored those two goals and was quite the presence overall. Charlie McAvoy logged 26:43 of ice time with a +1 rating, while a blocked shot apparently didn’t really throw off Zdeno Chara, who managed a +2 rating and 28:38 TOI. Despite some warranted criticisms, David Krejci did manage to generate three assists, adding to a substantial playoff resume for his career. Patrick Marleau provided more than just a “veteran presence” for the Maple Leafs, scoring two goals during a zany first period.

    Still, when it comes to the Maple Leafs, many will linger on those who fell short.

    Andersen’s struggles were considerable, rounding out a remarkably hot-and-cold series overall. Auston Matthews failed to score a point despite firing four SOG, finishing the series with just a single goal and single assist. Jake Gardiner had an awful Game 7, suffering a -5 rating and absorbing some of the blame for multiple bad moments.

    Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that Gardiner said “most” of the loss was on him and that the defenseman had tears in his eyes while asking questions.

    “I didn’t show up,” Gardiner said.

    The Bruins eliminated the Maple Leafs in an exhilarating fashion, carrying over an impressive regular season of puck-hogging play. They have plenty of room for improvement, something Jack Adams finalist Bruce Cassidy will surely emphasize as they turn their sights to a rested, versatile opponent in the Lightning.

    If it’s anything like Bruins – Leafs, it should be thrilling … and maybe a goalie’s nightmare.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second round schedule, TV info

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    The second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs is now set, thanks to the Boston Bruins winning Game 7 over the Toronto Maple Leafs, 7-4. The Bruins will move on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning, while the Pittsburgh Penguins will meet the Washington Capitals to complete the Eastern Conference bracket. Out West, the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets will battle out of the Central Division and the Vegas Golden Knights take on the San Jose Sharks.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    Here’s the full second round schedule, which kicks off with two games on Thursday night:

    * if necessary
    TBD – To Be Determined

    ————

    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Kapanen overwhelms Marchand, scores ridiculous goal

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    To the chagrin of the coaches and goalies, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs are keeping things hectic during the second period of Game 7.

    Kasperi Kapanen seems like he’s perpetually battling for a permanent/more prominent spot with the Maple Leafs, but it’s not for a lack of trying or moxie. He’s been hitting posts on some near-misses lately, but saved some magic for tonight.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH THIS DECISIVE GAME LIVE.

    You can see that in a 4-3 goal that currently stands as the Maple Leafs’ lead. Kapanen overpowers Brad Marchand and then outwaits Tuukka Rask for an absolutely tremendous shorthanded goal.

    (Check out that goal in the video above this post’s headline.)

    Impressive, especially considering who that came against. At one point, the Maple Leafs had converted on both of their shots on goal early in the second period to go from being down 3-2 to up 4-3. As mentioned after that wild first period, you have to wonder about both goalies’ confidence, but that’s especially true of Rask right now.

    To be fair, Kapanen’s showed a real knack for scoring big goals so far during his brief NHL career. As you may remember, he scored the game-winner in double overtime of Game 2 against the Washington Capitals during that tight series to start the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He also helped them punch their ticket to the postseason in 2016-17 with his first NHL goal.

    Then again, maybe this sort of goal is in the blood? Kasperi Kapanen’s shorthanded goal feels reminiscent of a great goal by his father Sami Kapanen:

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Bruins – Leafs Game 7 off to wild start, Reilly hit by puck

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    You can forgive fans of the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs for hyperventilating right now, unless they’re merely staring blankly at their screens.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH THIS DECISIVE GAME LIVE.

    Game 7 accelerated to 100 mph seemingly in mere seconds on Wednesday:

    • After a Sean Kuraly penalty, Patrick Marleau deflected a puck past Tuukka Rask to give Toronto a stunning 1-0 lead off of a power-play goal just 2:05 into the contest.
    • A delay of game infraction gave the Bruins a chance to tie things up on the power play, and they did just that as David Krejci and David Pastrnak set up Jake DeBrusk. That happened 4:47 into the game.
    • Less than two minutes later, Patrick Marleau scored again, giving Toronto a 2-1 edge that wouldn’t last.
    • The two teams combined for four goals through less than half of the first period, as Danton Heinen showed why he should be playing with the 2-2 goal with 11:50 remaining in the opening frame.
    • The Bruins took their first lead (3-2) of Game 7 with less than a minute left in the first period thanks to a goal by Patrice Bergeron.

    Those were just the goals, too, as there were some close calls, making you wonder about the confidence of Rask and Frederik Andersen:

    The two teams are also accruing some bumps and bruises, which must be to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s liking.

    In the most dramatic instance, Brad Marchand ducked a high Zdeno Chara shot, leaving an unsuspecting Morgan Rielly to take a puck to the face. It’s a scary moment, although the good news is that Rielly was able to return for the beginning of the second period.

    Yikes.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    Chara also seemed stung by a blocked shot during the first period, as he took a puck to his ankle/foot area. He didn’t appear to miss any time, and it would be tough to imagine him not fighting through it during a Game 7, yet you wonder if the hulking defenseman’s mobility might be hindered after that.

    The Bruins and Leafs already put on a show through 20 minutes. We’ll see who’s left standing to face the Bolts, whether this game ends in regulation or hits sudden death in a Game 7.

    *Gulp*

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.