Author: Ryan Dadoun

Cam Fowler

Ducks have embraced hard practices as long layoff nears end

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Thirteen. That’s the number of games the Anaheim Ducks have participated in since the start of April. In other words, they’ve had an off day nearly three-quarters of the time over that span.

That light schedule, brought on primarily thanks to their quick work of Winnipeg and Calgary, has been great for recovering from the wear and tear of the campaign and postseason, but it’s also hard to stay sharp when you’re not actually playing. Avoiding rust can be a challenge, but its one defenseman Cam Fowler feels they’ve met through intense practices.

“The big reason why we’ve had success is because how we’ve been practicing has carried over into the games,” Fowler said, per the team’s website. “That’s really important, especially when you have six or seven days off. It might be easy to sit back and relax for a second, but the good thing about our group is we continue to push each other in practice.”

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has noticed that too and praised the team’s determination, even compared to what Anaheim showed him in previous years.

“We’ve practiced a lot, and they’ve been hard practices, but these guys haven’t complained about it,” Boudreau said. “They’ve embraced the practices.”

It has to help that the Ducks are seeing results for their efforts. For the first time since 2007, Anaheim is in the Western Conference Final. The Chicago Blackhawks will likely prove to be more difficult than the Ducks’ previous opponents, but if Anaheim plays like it did in the first two rounds then this should be a good series.

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Report: Just Sabres, Leafs formally file paperwork to speak to Babcock

Mike Babcock
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There’s a long list of cities that have been cited as possible destinations for Mike Babcock, but with the race to get him likely approaching its conclusion, there might be just three teams in the hunt. The Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs are the only teams to have filed the paperwork to reach out to the bench boss, per Sportsnet. He also might end up re-signing with the Detroit Red Wings.

It’s worth emphasizing that there’s still time for other teams to file the paperwork and attempt to lure Babcock, but not a lot of it. Babcock recently predicted that he’d know what he was doing by the 20th.

In the case of Buffalo or Toronto, Babcock would be inheriting a team in the early stages of a rebuild, although the Sabres are expected to get a boost from selecting a potential franchise cornerstone in Jack Eichel with the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Detroit on the other hand is a team that’s in position to make the playoffs next season, although its future is still unclear.

There’s certainly promising youngsters in Detroit, but as Babcock knows, replacing the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in the not too distant future will be a monumental challenge.

Over 500 liver donor applications received to help Senators owner Eugene Melnyk

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Mere days after the Ottawa Senators revealed that owner Eugene Melnyk is “in urgent need of a liver transplant,” the University Health Network’s (UHN) Donor Assessment Team has gotten more than 500 donor applications, per the Senators’ update.

Of those applicants, more than 12 candidates have already been selected to engage in the donor screening process and are at various stages in it. The UHN is still encouraging people to continue to fill out and send in the donor assessment form.

There is no liver transplantation scheduled yet and there won’t be a timeline until a suitable donor is identified. However the procedure could end up happening “within a week,” per Dr. Atul Humar.

“With living donation, you can do the transplant sooner than if (the patient) waited on the deceased donor list, so the outcomes tend to be quite good… Many patients with severe liver disease, they’re very sick, and the longer they’re waiting for a liver the sicker they become, so it can be a more difficult recovery process,” Humar told the Ottawa Sun.

“For the donor, typically the operation is several hours long, and they’re in hospital for five to seven days, and they recover over the next few weeks after that.

“For the recipient it varies quite a bit. It depends on how sick they are before the procedure and how well they tolerate the surgery, so the recovery period could be anywhere from a few weeks to as long as a few months.”

Melnyk has been dealing with major health issues since mid-January. His family reached out to his friends and broader family in search of a live donor, but thus far a suitable donor hasn’t been located.

Cooper: ‘What got Montreal back in the series was what we did for big parts of the game’

Tampa Bay Lightning v Detroit Red Wings - Game Three
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The Tampa Bay Lightning managed to eliminate the Montreal Canadiens in the second round, but they didn’t make it look pretty. After taking a 3-0 series lead, it took three attempts to finally clinch. Some of the mistakes that plagued Tampa Bay in the second half of the previous series now seem to be bleeding into the Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers.

“What got us through the Montreal series is not what we did tonight in some parts of the game. What got Montreal back in the series was what we did for big parts of the game tonight,” Lightning bench boss Jon Cooper said after this afternoon’s 2-1 loss to New York.

Cooper felt like the team didn’t attempt enough shots and their five-on-five play could have been better. The Rangers certainly dominated the game in that regard as you can see below, per War on Ice:

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The Rangers similarly had an 18-13 edge in five-on-five scoring chances.

“I’ve got no answer why in Game 1 of a Conference Final why that happened,” Cooper said. “But I thought after the second or third period, both teams had chances. It was a pretty good hockey game.”

The game certainly remained close despite the Rangers edge at even strength. If this series plays out like the Rangers’ previous two, then we’re likely in for a lot more close, low scoring games. Then again Tampa Bay led the league in scoring during the regular season. The Rangers previous opponents, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, had star forwards, but not as much offensive depth as Tampa Bay. Perhaps that will be the key for the Lightning in this series, but that certainly wasn’t the case on Saturday.

Can the Rangers win the Cup like this?

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A great defense creates offense, right? Not always, not if you’re the Rangers right now at least. They’re winning games thanks to their solid defense and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s superb play, but at the same time, they’re averaging just two goals per game in the playoffs.

Which is fine because defense is what wins championships, doesn’t it? It’s an important part, certainly, but they’re pushing that philosophy to its limit and it will be interesting to see if it snaps likes an overstretched elastic band.

If the Rangers win the Stanley Cup while maintaining their current scoring pace, they’ll be setting themselves apart from the previous 16 Stanley Cup winners dating back to 1998. Over that stretch, the worst offensive team was the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning and even they averaged 2.56 goals per game during their postseason run. They had Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis averaging over a point per game, while the modern Rangers are led by Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan, who each have nine points in 13 contests.

The 2003 New Jersey Devils were a close second last among the list of Stanley Cup winners with their 2.58 goals per game pace in the playoffs. That Devils team lacked the offensive star power of the 2004 Lightning, but it had more offensive depth than Tampa Bay. New Jersey featured 17 different players that scored at least a goal and 11 that recorded two or more markers. The modern Rangers haven’t played in nearly as many contests yet, so it’s not a fair comparison, but so far 10 players have found the back of the net while eight have recorded at least two goals. Only two players have reached the five-goal mark (Chris Kreider and Brassard) while the Devils finished with six players that reached or surpassed that milestone.

Breaking new ground isn’t necessarily a recipe for disaster though and in line with that, the Rangers deserve credit for what they’ve already accomplished. They’ve been in 13 straight one-goal games in the 2015 playoffs and the fact they’ve gotten this far by coming through in clutch situations is amazing. Still, one has to wonder if any team can keep this up.

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