Jason Brough

Laine has ‘worst game for me in a long time,’ but Finland still defeats United States

1 Comment

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) Finland handed the United States its second loss by 3-2 at the world ice hockey championship on Monday.

Finland’s third win from three matches kept pace with Canada, which routed Belarus 8-0 with seven different players scoring, and led their group on goal difference. Canada has 20 goals in three games, and doesn’t play Finland until the last round of group matches next week.

The U.S. is fourth with its only win against Belarus. The top four qualify for the quarterfinals.

“I thought it was a very competitive game,” U.S. coach John Hynes said. “Unfortunately for us we were one goal short but we really liked the intensity level that we played with, and I feel like we really took a step in our team game.”

Mikko Koivu and Antti Pihlstrom scored for Finland in the first period before Frank Vatrano made it 2-1 with a slapshot.

Connor Murphy leveled early in the third for the U.S., but Leo Komarov slid in the puck four minutes later for the game-winner.

The game pitted two players up for the No. 1 spot in next month’s NHL draft, Finland’s Patrik Laine and America’s Auston Matthews. While Laine did not add to his four goals and two assists for the tournament, Matthews took the puck from Laine and assisted Vatrano’s goal to move to two goals and two assists.

“This was the worst game for me in a long time,” said Laine, who said he “stopped playing” before losing the puck to Matthews in the mistaken belief that there had been an offside call. “The most important thing is those three points (for Finland), and it’s all that matters when our team’s winning.”

With patriotic Soviet songs playing in the arena to mark the anniversary of beating the Nazis in the Second World War, Canada got two goals from Ryan O'Reilly, one of them while short-handed.

“It was a competitive game, especially early on,” Canada coach Bill Peters said. “That short-handed goal was a bit of a game-changer. They were very competitive and in the end, our depth is what wore them down.”

Cam Talbot faced only 13 shots for Canada’s first shutout of the championship.

The Czech Republic leads the Moscow group after beating Sweden 4-2 on two goals and an assist from Michal Birner.

Sweden was 2-0 up after the first before the Czechs scored four straight goals to take the win despite being outshot 29-20 overall.

Host Russia is second after beating Latvia 4-0 on two goals and two assists from forward Artemi Panarin, who bounced back after he was pulled from Sunday’s game against Kazakhstan following a hard collision into the boards.

Defenseman Alexei Yemelin faces a minimum one-game suspension after he was ejected for a knee on Miks Indrasis.

Russia is 2-1 after an opening 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic and the tricky 6-4 win over Kazakhstan.

Related: Canada routs United States, 5-1

Chiarelli’s already had ‘four or five teams’ call about the fourth overall pick


Last week, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli called trading the fourth overall pick at this summer’s draft a “real legitimate chance.”

Apparently, his counterparts around the NHL were listening.

“I’ve already had four or five teams call me,” Chiarelli said today, per 630 CHED in Edmonton. “I’ve made it known we would look to trade down if the right deal is there.”

It’s been a while since a top-5 pick was dealt. In 2008, the Leafs traded up two spots with the Islanders to take Luke Schenn fifth overall. The cost to do so was a second-rounder and a third-rounder.

A couple of years later, the Bruins got Tyler Seguin with Toronto’s second overall pick, but that deal was different. It was made in September of 2009, before the Leafs went on to finish with the second-worst record in 2009-10.

Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi are expected to be snapped up with the first three picks in 2016.

After that is anyone’s guess, with forwards Pierre-Luc Dubois and Matthew Tkachuk among the top candidates to go next.

Malcolm Subban has sights set on Bruins’ back-up spot

Malcolm Subban

The Boston Bruins want a better back-up goalie. Team president Cam Neely said so a couple of weeks ago, essentially slamming the book shut on Jonas Gustavsson‘s time with the organization.

While it remains to be seen who will replace Gustavsson, Malcolm Subban thinks “for sure” that he’s ready for the job. The 22-year-old’s confidence is high, despite fracturing his larynx in February.

“If you don’t believe you’re able to do it, then you’re probably not going to do it,” Subban told the Boston Herald. “Personally, yeah, I think I’ve developed a lot over the these past three years, in spite of the injury. Only time will tell, and it’s not my decision. If I come to camp and don’t play well, then I’ll make their decision a lot easier.”

Speaking of training camp, it will be interesting to see what kind of competition Subban faces once it starts. Tuukka Rask will be there, obviously. But will GM Don Sweeney go out and add a proven backup this offseason?

Perhaps Sweeney could target somebody like Jhonas Enroth, who wasn’t exactly thrilled with his playing time in Los Angeles this past season. Or maybe even Chad Johnson, the last reliable backup the Bruins actually had. Both Enroth and Johnson are pending unrestricted free agents, just to throw a couple of names out there.  

This is no small decision for Sweeney. For a bubble team like the B’s, the back-up goalie can be the difference between making and missing the playoffs. Case in point, Subban’s only career NHL start arose late in 2014-15 because the B’s didn’t have anyone beyond Niklas Svedberg. The debut was a disaster for Subban, who allowed three goals on just six shots.

Another factor that Sweeney will need to consider is Subban’s development. Remember that the Bruins drafted Subban 24th overall in 2012. He was the second goalie taken that year (after Andrei Vasilevskiy went 19th to Tampa Bay), and he remains a very important prospect for the organization, either as a future starter or a potential trade chip.

In other words, if he’s not ready for the NHL, the Bruins shouldn’t force it.

Related: Malcolm Subban feels he’s ‘taken a huge step forward’ from last year

Facing elimination, Stars expected to stick with Lehtonen

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 3:  Kari Lehtonen #32 of the Dallas Stars makes a save against the St. Louis Blues in Game Three of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on May 3, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

It looks like the Dallas Stars are sticking with Kari Lehtonen.

Lehtonen was reportedly the first goalie off the ice this morning in St. Louis, where the visitors will be fighting for their playoff lives later tonight. The Blues lead the series, 3-2.

Dallas coach Lindy Ruff has twice turned to Antti Niemi in these playoffs, so there was some reason to wonder if he’d do the same after Lehtonen allowed three goals on just 21 shots in Saturday’s 4-1 loss. The Stars have gone back-and-forth between the two veteran netminders all season.

Lehtonen, however, has been the superior goalie in the postseason. His .901 save percentage isn’t great, but it beats Niemi’s .872 mark.

Related: If the Stars don’t get some better goaltending, their GM will have some explaining to do

In case there was any doubt, Murray will start Game 6 for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) deflects a puck over the net during the first period of Game 3 against the Washington Capitals in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals in Pittsburgh, Monday, May 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The answer is Matt Murray. That’s who’s going to start in goal tomorrow. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said so today.

Here are a couple of good reasons why:

1. Murray hasn’t exactly fallen apart. He only allowed three goals in Saturday’s loss. He was excellent in the three games before that, and he has a .937 save percentage in the playoffs.

2. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn’t played since March 31. Even if there was legitimate concern about Murray, it would be a heck of a risk to throw Fleury in there at this point.

Now, if Murray struggles in Game 6 and the Capitals force a Game 7, perhaps the argument for a change could be made. Though even then, the risk of playing Fleury would remain.

But that’s a decision for another day. So far, Murray has not deserved to lose the net. Without him, the Penguins could easily be behind in this series. Instead, they’re in the driver’s seat, with a chance to close out the Caps tomorrow at home.

Related: People are already calling for Fleury to replace Murray