Getty Images

U.S., Canada meet in early Olympic showdown among world’s best

2 Comments

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Much more than bragging rights are on the line anytime the Americans and Canadians meet, and the Olympics offers the opportunity to showcase just how good the best in women’s hockey really are these days.

No medal will be on the line Thursday. Just the top spot in the best group in pool play along with the choice of jersey color and benches for the next time they play – ideally the gold medal game.

Only gold will do for the United States at the Pyeongchang Games with the Americans mired in a 20-year title drought. And this will be the first time the Americans have played their biggest rival in the Olympics since Canada stunned the United States by rallying from a 2-0 deficit to win gold at the 2014 Sochi Games with a 3-2 overtime victory.

Yes, the Americans have been waiting for this moment since the final horn blew in 2014.

”We’ve been preparing for this tournament for four years,” said Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, a three-time Olympian. ”The first two games we’re pretty happy with how they went. Definitely some things we can continue to get better at, but hopefully build on each and every game and be at our best when it matters.”

That game is Feb. 22 when the gold medal will be up for grabs.

For now, the Canadians and Americans know millions will be watching a game scheduled for just after noon in South Korea to allow North Americans the chance to watch some late night hockey on Valentine’s Day.

Canada forward Jillian Saulnier said they try to represent the best of women’s hockey anytime they step on the ice. The Olympics only raises the stakes.

”The world is watching, so for us it’s just a time to showcase our talents and skills so to be able to play against some of the best players in the world,” Saulnier said. ”And some of those are on the U.S. as well, so it’s an exciting time for us.”

These teams know each other very well thanks to a pre-Olympic exhibition schedule of eight games that included the Four Nations Cup. The United States won three of the first four, including two to win the Four Nations Cup title. But Canada won the final four games in December with two each in Canada and in the United States.

Canada captain Marie-Philip Poulin, who scored the tying and game-winning goals in the gold medal game in Sochi, noted they haven’t played since Canada finalized its Olympic roster.

”So obviously it’s going to be a big change for both of the teams,” Poulin said. ”So excited to play. It doesn’t matter what happened before.”

Even though the United States won the inaugural gold at the 1998 Nagano Games when women’s hockey debuted at the Olympics, Canada has won each of the past four, and the Canadians are in South Korea looking to add the only medal their country expects when playing the sport they created.

United States defenseman Kacey Bellamy is playing in her third Olympics and called U.S.-Canada a ”great rivalry.”

”Honestly, it’s exciting anytime we play them,” Bellamy said. ”We’re going to give 100 percent. We have a lot of respect for each other. Once we hit the ice, it’s going to be a fun game. It’s going to be fast, and we’re excited.”

Canada stands at the top of Group A, despite both teams being 2-0, thanks to having scored one more goal (nine) than the Americans (eight). Both teams have allowed one goal apiece – both to Finland. Canada beat Finland by 4-1 compared to the Americans’ 3-1 win to open preliminary play.

The Americans canceled practice Wednesday after beating the Russians 5-0 late Tuesday night. The Canadians practiced after their win over Finland.

U.S. coach Robb Stauber has tried to keep his players focused on only one opponent at a time, trying to ignore the inevitable game with Canada until a day away.

”We know we have the next game,” Stauber said. ”We know that opponent very well.”

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

Bruins will way to Game 7 win against Maple Leafs

16 Comments

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

9 Comments

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

NBC
9 Comments

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.