Boyle, Luongo, Staal are 2018 Masterton Trophy Finalists

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Brian Boyle of the New Jersey Devils, Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers and Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes have been named finalists for the 2017-18 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The award, which is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association is given to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

PHWA chapters in each NHL market nominate a player for the award each year and the top three vote-getters are then designated as finalists.

The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 20.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Brian Boyle’s story – via the NHL:

Before Boyle set foot on the ice as a New Jersey Devil, he faced his biggest test. At the start of training camp the 33-year-old was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a type of bone marrow cancer. He worked his way back into the lineup by Nov. 1 and notched 10 goals over his first 25 games, including a memorable goal on the Devils’ Hockey Fights Cancer Night at Prudential Center, a 3-2 win over Vancouver on Nov. 24. Boyle missed just three games after his season debut and represented the Devils at the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game in Tampa Bay. While handling his own illness, his family and his career, Boyle has approached every day with the same optimistic attitude and perseverance that has inspired and lifted the Devils’ locker room.

Roberto Luongo’s story – via the NHL:

Luongo, 39, overcame hand and groin injuries during the season and backstopped the Panthers’ drive for an Eastern Conference Playoff berth. Sidelined by injury since early December, the franchise’s all-time leader in wins, shutouts and appearances returned on Feb. 17 to help the Panthers defeat Calgary 6-3 and ignite a Florida rally in the East’s Wild Card race. In a 13-game span, Luongo went 9-3-1 with a 2.44 GAA and .928 SV%. On Feb. 22, Luongo delivered a heartfelt, unscripted speech to the crowd at BB&T Center prior to Florida’s game against Washington. The 12-year resident of nearby Parkland, Fla., addressed the recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting during the Panthers’ pregame ceremony to honor the victims.

Jordan Staal’s story – via the NHL: 

Showing leadership and strength amidst a family tragedy, Staal was a key component of the Hurricanes throughout the season. In late February, Staal and his wife, Heather, announced their daughter, Hannah, was delivered stillborn due to a terminal birth defect previously diagnosed by doctors. Staal, who had assumed a bigger leadership role with the young Hurricanes by being named co-captain before the season, missed just three games following the tragedy. He registered 46 points (19 goals, 27 assists) in 79 games, the second-highest goal and point totals in his six seasons with Carolina. The 29-year-old skated in his 800th NHL game on Dec. 27 against Montreal and scored his 200th goal on Jan. 12 against Washington.

2018 NHL Award finalists
Calder Trophy (Sunday)
Lady Byng Trophy
Norris Trophy
Selke Trophy
Vezina Trophy


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Panthers stay alive, Jackets and Devils clinch, Brown scores 4

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Player of the Night: Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers

It was a big night for Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers.

Playing in his 1,000th NHL game, Luongo helped the Panthers keep their slim playoff hope alive by stopping 26 of the 28 shots he faced in a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins.

The final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference is now down to just the Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers. Given what needs to happen the Panthers are still probably a long shot at this point, but they needed a win on Thursday and got exactly that. Now they need the Flyers to lose to the New York Rangers in regulation on Saturday afternoon while the Panthers need to win their remaining two games — at home against Buffalo on Saturday night and then at Boston on Sunday in a makeup of a game that was postponed earlier this season. Buffalo has already secured the worst record in the league, but the Bruins could still be playing for the Atlantic Division title in that game.

Player of the Night Part Two: Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings

For the past few years Dustin Brown looked like he was finished being a productive player, at least offensively. He has had a huge bounce back year in 2017-18 and will end up finishing with a career high in points after failing to record more than 36 points in each of the past five years. He played one of the best games of his career on Thursday by scoring four goals, including the game-winning goal in overtime, to help lead the Kings to a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild. He will not set a new career high in goals (33 is out of reach at this point) but the 28 he currently has would be tied for the second most in his career.

Players of the Night Part Three: Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

Just because you could not have scripted that game any better. Daniel scored two goals, including the game-winning goal in overtime, in their final home game with the Canucks. Read about it and see the goals here.

Blue Jackets, Devils are in

The reason the Eastern Conference playoff race is down to just two teams is because the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils officially clinched their spots in the playoffs on Thursday night.

Even though the Blue Jackets were on the losing end of a 5-4 overtime game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the point they gained was enough to get them in.

The Devils, meanwhile, clinched their first playoff berth since the 2011-12 season thanks to their 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The seeding remains up for grabs. The Penguins currently occupy the second spot in the Metropolitan Division with 98 points, while the Blue Jackets and Devils are just behind them at 97 points. That leaves a number of different potential first-round matchups still on the table.

We do know one first-round matchup

With the Nashville Predators officially wrapping up the Presidents’ Trophy, top spot in the Western Conference, and the Central Division we officially know at least one first-round matchup, and it will be the No. 2 vs. No. 3 matchup in the Central Division where the Winnipeg Jets will take on the Minnesota Wild. That series will begin in Winnipeg.

Blues get some help

The St. Louis Blues had the night off but they were still big winners on Thursday night because the team they are chasing for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche, ended up losing to the San Jose Sharks, 4-2. The Blues remain just one point back of that spot while the two teams close out the regular season playing each other in Colorado. The win for the Sharks gave them 100 points in a season for the eighth time in franchise history.

Highlight of the Night

Phil Kessel scored two goals for the Penguins on Thursday night helping him to hit the 90-point mark for the first time in his career. Both goals were absolute lasers and the type of on-the-rush goals that few players in the league are capable of. His second of the game, which was also the game-winning goal in overtime, was the best of the bunch.

Highlight of the Night Part Two

The Sedins stole the show in Vancouver on Thursday night but this Brandon Leipsic goal to tie the game at three in the third period deserves some attention. Without this goal we do not get overtime for the Sedins to have their storybook ending on home ice.

Factoid of the Night

It has been an amazing season for the Winnipeg Jets, and finally getting some quality goaltending is a big reason why. Connor Hellebuyck won his 43rd game of the season in the Jets’ 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday, tying him with Tom Barrasso for most wins in a season by an American-born goalie. Of course it is in the shootout era so all asterisks that you want to use for goalie win totals in this era are in play, but it is still an incredible season for him.

Scores

New Jersey Devils 2, Toronto Maple Leafs 1

New York Islanders 2, New York Rangers 1

Philadelphia Flyer 4, Carolina Hurricanes 3

Nashville Predators 4, Washington Capitals 3

Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 4

Montreal Canadiens 4, Detroit Red Wings 3

Florida Panthers 3, Boston Bruins 2

Winnipeg Jets 2, Calgary Flames 1

Edmonton Oilers 4, Vegas Golden Knights 3

Vancouver Canucks 4, Arizona Coyotes 3

San Jose Sharks 4, Colorado Avalanche 2

Los Angeles Kings 5, Minnesota Wild 4

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators fan sends catfish to NHL after disallowed goal

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The latest goalie interference call that had a lot of people up in arms came earlier this week when the Nashville Predators thought they had scored a game-tying goal in the closing seconds against the Florida Panthers. The goal would have sent the game to overtime and at the very least helped the Predators get one point closer to the Central Division crown and their first ever Presidents’ Trophy.

Instead, a replay review of the goal resulted in the call being overturned after it was determined that Viktor Arvidsson had interfered with Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo, allowing Filip Forsberg to put the puck in the net with less than a second to play.

This decision resulted in another round of criticism for the league’s goalie interference rules. That criticism was not just coming from players or coaches, either, as Carrie Underwood was “livid” and Kiefer Sutherland was Tweeting that the Predators were robbed.

Just another night in the NHL, you know?

Honestly, as far as the league’s controversial goaltender interference reviews have gone this season this one seemed to be at least pretty understandable as Arvidsson clearly used his stick to jam into Luongo’s pads and push him, knocking the puck loose.

Either way, the Predators and their fans were pretty angry about the whole thing and one fan by the name of Briley Meeks decided to send a message to the NHL by shipping a catfish to the league offices in Toronto.

Justin Bradford at Penalty Box radio had the story and you can read the whole thing here.

An excerpt:

“I went to Little’s Fish Company in Germantown because I knew they had catfish,” Meeks said. “I went there and bought two catfish. I called UPS asking if you can send fish through the mail. They knew what I was doing. So, I went down there and this man, the manager of the UPS Store, helped me. He said it would have to go through customs, and didn’t want me to spend all this money and it be returned. He called customs for me and made sure that it was okay that I send a dead catfish to a business. They said it was fine. We’re hoping it gets there.”

The total shipping cost for a dead catfish to Toronto: $134.50. “Worth every penny” according to Meeks.

What’s the message Meeks hopes the NHL gets with this package?

“I just want them to get it, open it and realize it stinks because what they did stinks to us,” Meeks said. “Maybe they’ll think about it harder before they go and rob people of a game.”

Predators fans have been throwing catfish on the ice at games — usually during the playoffs — since as far back as 2003, drawing inspiration from the Red Wings’ octopus tradition.

And now, apparently, there was one this week on the doorsteps at the NHL offices.

 

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Hall of a night

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Players of the Night:

Taylor Hall: There are some great choices from Tuesday, but when you consider overall output and the importance of such production, Hall is up there. He extended his current point streak to nine games with a splendid two-goal, two-assist performance, greatly improving the Devils’ chances of making the playoffs.

Will Butcher was impressive in his own right, collecting two goals.

Also great scorers for teams in the hunt: Artemi Panarin scored one goal and two assists for the Columbus Blue Jackets, playing an integral role in their comeback win against Detroit. (Seth Jones also collected three assists). It’s only taken Panarin one season to set quite the milestone for the Blue Jackets franchise.

William Karlsson continues his sensational season for the Golden Knights, generating a goal and two assists of his own. He now has 43 goals and 78 points in 2017-18, and is heating up toward the postseason with an absurd 12 points in his last five contests.

Finally, Kyle Connor continues his fantastic work as a rookie for the Jets. Like Karlsson and Panarin, Connor collected a goal and two helpers, pushing his season total to 30. Maybe he can at least grab a slice of Patrik Laine‘s limelight?

Goalies impress: With 33 saves, Andrei Vasilevskiy collected his eighth shutout of 2017-18, tying Pekka Rinne for the NHL lead. Read more about his win with the Lightning here.

Roberto Luongo stopped 45 of 46 shots to keep Florida’s slim hopes alive tonight. Of course, some believe that he actually allowed two goals. That’s a whole thing. Finally, Antti Raanta continues his great work in “garbage time,” making 42 saves in Arizona’s win against Calgary.

(One guy who’s still absorbing being in “garbage time” who had a strong night was Jamie Benn. He generated a hat trick in the Stars’ rally against the Sharks.)

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Highlights

A day after the Sedins announced their retirement, they received a great ovation from Canucks fans. This is their second-to-last home game in Vancouver.

No surprise that other teams tip their caps to the Sedins.

Max Domi seems to be improving lately, and his mind games are on point.

Scores

Devils 5, Rangers 2
Islanders 5, Flyers 4
Blue Jackets 5, Red Wings 4 (OT)
Jets 5, Canadiens 4 (OT)
Lightning 4, Bruins 0
Panthers 2, Predators 1
Coyotes 4, Flames 1
Golden Knights 5, Canucks 4 (SO)
Stars 4, Sharks 2

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.

The Buzzer: Maple Leafs win records tumble, Caps win fifth straight

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Players of the Night:

Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals: He didn’t score on Wednesday, but his two assists were vital for the Capitals. Backstrom’s first helped tie the game with 33 seconds left in the first period. And with 65 seconds left in the game, his second apple of the night set up the tying goal that forced overtime, which Washington won via Evgeny Kuznetsov 38 seconds into the extra frame.

Kevin Connauton, Arizona Coyotes: Not a name you’re probably accustomed to seeing here, but Connauton put in a solid effort tonight, The 28-year-old opened the scoring for the Coyotes and then scored the game-winner in the second period to see off the Vegas Golden Knights.

Highlights of the Night: 

Roberto Luongo and Frederik Andersen put on an incredible-save clinic on Wednesday:

Luongo’s blocker save:

Andersen’s glove save:

The saves kept coming:

Kuznetsov fires home the winner and his sixth straight game with multiple points:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 4, Panthers 3

Capitals 3, Rangers 2

Flyers 2, Avalanche 1

Coyotes 3, Golden Knights 2


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck