James O'Brien

Columbus Blue Jackets v Calgary Flames

PHT Morning Skate: Back to School starring Johnny Hockey

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Johnny Gaudreau is continuing his studies at Boston College. Apparently he’s studying communications, which is probably less taxing than dealing with the Anaheim Ducks and getting cross-checked in the back. Probably. (Flames)

A daring proposition: should the Montreal Canadiens try to trade for … Phil Kessel? (The Hockey News)

One argument in favor of trading for Kessel: Montreal’s big guns let them down. (Sportsnet)

Looking for a CapGeek supplement? General Fanager is probably the best thing that’s come along so far. (General Fanager)

The Rangers feel like they have a lot in common with their upcoming opponent, the Lightning. (NHL.com)

Apparently it’s Alain Vigneault’s birthday. One would imagine his (waking up going after a Game 7 win) is happier than P.K. Subban’s (a day after Montreal was eliminated from the playoffs), eh?

Rangers’ praise for Stepan extends beyond OT winner

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Seven
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New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan had his, erm, “Stepan Matteau” moment when he scored the 2-1 OT winner against the Washington Capitals in Game 7.

Still, if you ask his Rangers teammates, he’s done more than score a memorable goal. The praise goes high for his larger body of work in that tight series.

“I thought Stepan was the best player all series,” Kevin Hayes said, according to WFAN’s Sean Harnett.

Hartnett reports that Chris Kreider backed that up, pointing out that Stepan was making “little plays” before this huge one drew all that attention.

It’s no surprise that Stepan received “The Broadway Hat,” although one wonders if some of the logic follows that the Rangers probably get tired of handing it over to Henrik Lundqvist so often:

Here’s Stepan’s take on Wednesday’s big Game 7 win.

Ovechkin believes Washington deserved better

ovechkinup
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Dejected and exhausted. That’s probably the best way to describe Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin after his guarantee didn’t come true on Wednesday.

Ovechkin didn’t have much of an explanation for why the Capitals fell just short against the New York Rangers in Game 7 and in the series overall, although he did praise Henrik Lundqvist moments after Washington’s season came to a crushing end.

The tone of Ovechkin’s comments more or less parallel the reactions from teammates and head coach Barry Trotz. In short: the result stings, yet the Capitals seem happy about their efforts (and optimistic about the future).

Caps’ Trotz: ‘Defeat is not your undertaker’

Barry Trotz
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For some, tonight’s overtime Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers was just another crushing defeat for the Alex Ovechkin-led Washington Capitals. Those around the team seem more optimistic … at least those who can digest it already, that is.

Head coach Barry Trotz praised the Caps’ big-time players even as the sting of that 2-1 OT defeat lingers, as the Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt reports.

“We’re learning from our history and we’re looking it right in the eye,” Trotz said. “We went after this game…and almost pulled it off.”

“I think my top guys delivered. All my top guys…They grew up. They grew today.”

Braden Holtby echoed Trotz’s thoughts, right down to talking about growth, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.

“If we keep growing the way we grew this year we’re going to do some special things,” Holtby said.

Trotz also backed up Ovechkin’s now-ill-fated guarantee one more time:

It’s easy to see why the Capitals aren’t throwing each other under the bus. This series was about as tight as it gets with all seven games being decided by a single goal. Washington may have been in round three if a few extra bounces went its way.

Of course, there is one naysayer side to growth talk: in a salary cap era, you may lose key contributors to free agency like Mike Green and Joel Ward. It’s also difficult to ignore the fact that Alex Ovechkin will turn 30 around training camp time (the age where most snipers begin to decline in production).

Still, the Caps saw promising work in year one under Trotz, and one can assume that young players including Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky will only get better and gain more trust from their head coach.

Don’t get things twisted, though; not every member of the organization is taking the loss in stride just yet.

Here’s your 2015 Conference Finals schedule

Chicago Blackhawks v Anaheim Ducks
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The smoke has barely cleared from the New York Rangers’ thrilling Game 7 overtime win against the Washington Capitals, yet we already have a schedule for what could be a fantastic conference finals.

Fans of the other 26 teams may disagree, but it’s tough to imagine a better duo of series than Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks vs. Anaheim Ducks.

Via the NHL:

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL MATCHUP
SERIES M – M1 vs. A2
TIME (ET)  vs.  NETWORKS
Saturday, May 16 1 p.m. Tampa Bay at NY Rangers NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Monday, May 18 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at NY Rangers NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Wednesday, May 20 8 p.m. NY Rangers at Tampa Bay NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Friday, May 22 8 p.m. NY Rangers at Tampa Bay NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*Sunday, May 24 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at NY Rangers NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*Tuesday, May 26 8 p.m. NY Rangers at Tampa Bay NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*Friday, May 29 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at NY Rangers NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL MATCHUP
SERIES N – P1 vs. C3
TIME (ET)   vs. 
NETWORKS
Sunday, May 17 3 p.m. Chicago at Anaheim NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Tuesday, May 19 9 p.m. Chicago at Anaheim NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Thursday, May 21 8 p.m. Anaheim at Chicago NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Saturday, May 23 8 p.m. Anaheim at Chicago NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
*Monday, May 25 9 p.m. Chicago at Anaheim NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*Wednesday, May 27 8 p.m. Anaheim at Chicago NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*Saturday, May 30 8 p.m. Chicago at Anaheim NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

* – If necessary.