If only the St. Louis Blues had listened.
“(Vladimir Tarasenko) told us the day he got here about (Artemi) Panarin,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus. “At least once a month. … We all look a little dumb right now.”
Tarasenko made the leap from SKA St. Petersburg to the St. Louis Blues in 2013. At the time Panarin was already established in the KHL, but he hadn’t broken out offensively yet. He had 18 points in 43 KHL contests in 2012-13 compared to 26 goals and 54 points in 54 games in 2014-15. Then the Chicago Blackhawks signed him.
Given how well that’s worked out for the Blackhawks, the Blues obviously wish they would have followed Tarasenko’s recommendation.
“Instead of paying him $8 million we should have hired him as a scout,” Hitchcock joked, per CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers.
Of course, St. Louis still managed to silence Chicago in Game 1, but the Blackhawks are far from done. The defending Stanley Cup champions will have an opportunity to even the series on Friday before they head to Chicago.
Just a day after the possibility of him returning before the end of the first round was discussed, it now looks like Evgeni Malkin (upper body) might play in Game 2 on Saturday.
Malkin not only took part in Friday’s practice, but he skated on a line with Conor Sheary Bryan Rust and the top power-play unit during drills. Afterwards he described himself as a game-time decision, per NHL.com’s Wes Crosby.
If the Penguins forward does return on Saturday it will be just five weeks into his original six-to-eight week timetable. Of course, it’s worth emphasizing that nothing is set in stone, especially in the playoffs.
Either way, the fact that Malkin returning on Saturday even seems to be a possibility is a great sign for the Penguins. They already claimed an early lead in the series with a 5-2 victory on Wednesday. Getting Malkin back now would put further pressure on the New York Rangers.
Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) took part in Friday’s practice as well and continues to make progress. He’s also a possibility to return on Saturday.
After suffering a 5-4 defeat at the hands of the New York Islanders in the series opener, it seems the Florida Panthers are tweaking their lineup for Game 2 on Friday.
Defenseman Jakub Kindl is on course to be a healthy scratch based on this morning’s practice, per the Miami Herald’s George Richards. It looks like Michael Matheson will take his place.
Kindl logged just 12:30 minutes of ice time in Game 1 and didn’t look good in the sequence that led to Ryan Strome‘s game-winning goal, as you can see below:
At the age of 22, Matheson has three regular season games under his belt and has never participated in an NHL playoff contest. That being said, he’s one of the Panthers’ top defensive prospects after being taken with the 23rd overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
In other news, Panthers coach Gerard Gallant put to rest any doubt about the team’s goaltending situation. Not that it will come as a surprise, but goaltender Roberto Luongo will start in his second game in as many days, as reported by George Richards.
Will Sam Anas be the next undersized forward to make a successful transition from college success to the NHL?
Anas took another step in that direction when he reportedly inked a two-year, entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild, per Elliotte Friedman.
Update: Minnesota has confirmed the signing. His two-year contract will start in 2016-17.
The 22-year-old forward stands at roughly 5-foot-8 and has recorded just over a point-per-game in each of his three campaigns with Quinnipiac University. In 2015-16 he had 24 goals and 50 points in 43 contests.
“His best trait is his composure with the puck — there’s no panic in his game. He’s so poised with the puck on his stick. He has that ability to wait and wait,” Quinnipiac Coach Rand Pecknold told the Washington Post back in January. “There are great players stuck in the minors because they don’t have poise in games. If anything, Sam gets better when the puck drops in a game.”
Like other undersized forwards, he’ll be under extra scrutiny, but that’s nothing new to him and you don’t have to look hard to find examples of forwards that have taken a similar path. Calgary Flames star Johnny Gaudreau is an obvious example and perhaps someday Anas will be an easy go to as well.
In a back-and-forth contest where the Florida Panthers held the lead on three separate occasions, it was the New York Islanders that ultimately claimed a 5-4 victory in Game 1 Thursday night.
After finishing the 2015-16 regular season on a hot streak, John Tavares carried that momentum into this series in a big way with a goal and two assists. Ryan Strome had a helper too and netted the game-winning goal.
The Islanders offensive depth extended beyond that though as Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen each contributed a goal and an assist. Meanwhile, defenseman Travis Hamonic made his return from a knee injury and finished with an assist in 24:52 minutes of ice time.
On the Panthers side, Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen did their best to keep Florida in this one. Smith found the back of the net twice and had an assist while Jokinen scored a goal and registered two assists. Teddy Purcell, who was acquired from Edmonton during the 2015-16 campaign, scored the series opening goal just 1:55 minutes into the contest.
For the Panthers and Islanders, this series is about ending a lengthy and painful stretch of the team’s history. The Islanders haven’t won a playoff series since 1993 and Florida’s drought dates back to 1996. One of those trends will end and the Islanders are now one win closer to it.