James O'Brien

Pavel Zacha, Auston Matthews

Auston Matthews, 17, makes some history with USA Hockey

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By playing in an exhibition game for Team USA against Austria at the 2015 World Hockey Championships, Auston Matthews made a small chunk of history. He’s the first player to get a look at that level before even being draft-eligible, as SI.com’s Alan Muir notes.

The 17-year-old managed to score in the 4-1 U.S. win against Austria, according to Team USA’s rundown. That same summary notes that Matthews is headed home from the tournament, so perhaps it was just a tantalizing glimpse into the future.

Muir does a great job summarizing Matthews’ recent accomplishments, which might be delightful fodder for those who are already wondering if their team needs to tank in 2015-16 (those people are probably out there, after all):

No matter how he fares, it’ll be another entry in one of the most impressive résumés ever written for an American-born prospect. Playing as a member of the U.S. National Team Development Program this season, the 6′ 2″, 194-pound Matthews broke Patrick Kane’s single-season scoring record with 55 goals and 116 points in just 60 games. He also stood out as a double-underager with the Americans at the 2015 World Juniors, tallying three points in five contests.

(Obviously he did OK, even if he’s headed home.)

The question, really, becomes how do you find a rhyme scheme to promote tanking for Matthews? Pile on for Auston, maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoff TV schedule for tonight

Detroit Red Wings v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Five
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The first round ends with one last Game 7, as the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Detroit Red Wings in a decisive match. Here’s the pertinent information …

Red Wings at Lightning, 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN (with pre-game at 6:30 p.m. ET)

As Mike Babcock notes, neither one of these teams has won two straight games in this series, so at least that train of logic benefits Detroit.

The Lightning aren’t totally inexperienced when it comes to Game 7’s as a franchise, but they haven’t seen one since the new regime took over. There’s plenty of pressure on GM Steve Yzerman and especially head coach Jon Cooper to finally win a playoff series. Promising progress or not, patience might wear thin in some quarters if they go 0-for-2 in postseason rounds.

Detroit obviously boasts a ton of veteran experience, including that of head coach Mike Babcock. The rumors swirling around his future with the organization will persist either way, but if the Red Wings lose tonight, those questions (and maybe some drama?) will surface a lot sooner.

It all shapes up to be an intriguing and unpredictable Game 7, which makes for a fitting way to end a fantastic first round.

Visnovsky hopes to return to Isles, if his body allows it

Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders
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It was a turbulent season for New York Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, and it ended with a big bump in the form of that thunderous hit by Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson:

Much like his teammates, Visnovsky told New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple that he was angry and upset about that hit, but also believes he could have played if the Isles advanced to the second round.

Things get a little juicier regarding whether he’ll ever play for the Islanders – or maybe another NHL team – again, as he heads toward unrestricted free agency.

Many hardcore hockey fans are aware that the 38-year-old is one of the more injury-prone players in the league. “Lubo” seems to understand this, as he noted to Staple.

“I want to play, but sometimes my body doesn’t work …” Visnovsky said. “I have all summer to think about it.”

If he does, Visnovsky said he wants to return to the Islanders, a team he believed had a shot at the Stanley Cup.

Of course, the Isles have to ask themselves if they’d want the aging blueliner back, especially since they’re hoping to build toward that goal of winning it all. It’s not at an easy choice, but as Visnovsky would likely agree, there’s plenty of time to mull over such decisions.

PHT Morning Skate: Rangers battle capital letters, not just Capitals

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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.

From the “things that could get really old if we have a seven-game series” file: the New York Rangers are being cute by tweeting without using capital letters, as The Score and SBNation point out. We’ll see if they keep this up over about two weeks, but at least shift keys are getting a breather, right? (Rangers feed)

Should we expect the Ottawa Senators to trade one of their goalies this summer after Andrew Hammond creates a three’s a crowd situation? Adam Proteau believes so, and charts a plan for such a move. (The Hockey News)

Editor’s Note: Play daily fantasy hockey for cash! Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $18,000 league. It’s just $3 to join and first place wins $2,000. Starts tonight at 7:30pm ET. Play Now!

More and more fans brace for the long hockey-less summer, so this list of 15 top unrestricted free agents could do well to distract from sad thoughts (or at least create some hypothetical good situations). (Sportsnet)

Are some NHL general managers getting burned by their loyalty to fading talent? (The Globe & Mail)

Former NHL goalie Don Edwards fights to keep his parents’ killer behind bars. (Toronto Sun via Greatest Hockey Legends)

Tavares struggles to believe ‘it’s really over’ for Isles

John Tavares
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The New York Islanders are finished for the 2014-15 season. So is their time at Nassau Coliseum. It all crashed down as the Capitals suffocated them in Washington by a score of 2-1 in Game 7.

For many, the most shocking thing was a poor effort by the Islanders’ offense, as they generated just 11 shots on goal (with a measly three coming from forward).

For captain John Tavares, it’s just tough to fathom that they’re done until 2015-16.

“It’s just hard to believe it’s really over,” Tavares told WFAN’s Daniel Friedman.

That’s not to say that Tavares & Co. are delusional about their efforts, however. They admitted that it wasn’t a great performance. They also didn’t blame the officials.

Indeed, the Islanders have months for Game 7’s letdown to gnaw at them. What they won’t have is another chance for a bit run at their old barn.