Kane scores late winner as Blackhawks down Bruins 3-1

2 Comments

For the Chicago Blackhawks to avoid a three-game losing skid, they’d have to beat a team that had just won six straight at home.

Luckily for the Blackhawks, the schedule lured the Boston Bruins away from the comfortable confines of TD Garden on Sunday and killed two birds with one stone, simultaneously ending both streaks in a 3-1 triumph at United Center in the Windy City.

The Blackhawks regrouped quickly, going 50-plus minutes without allowing a goal on Sunday, a day after allowing seven goals to the same Bruins team, including four unanswered en route to a 7-4 loss.

Chicago led from the 7:26 mark of the first period as Artem Anisimov deflected a point shot past Bruins netminder Anton Khudobin for a 1-0 lead.

Perhaps a little fatigue caught up with the Bruins and maybe the well ran a little dry.

Boston has had to make due without Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy, both nursing injuries, and David Backes, who is out due to suspension.

On Sunday, Brad Marchand‘s name was added to the list the walking wounded, after he was made a late scratch with an upper-body injury prior to the game.

It was a tad suspect after Marchand clotheslined Anthony Duclair on Saturday if the first game of the home-and-home, leading to an injury for the latter that’s ruled him out for 1-2 weeks. Perhaps the Bruins didn’t want to risk any retribution.

But even a Bruins team hampered by injury is still a good Bruins team as witnessed in Saturday’s win.

Despite all the scoring missing from the lineup, an old friend stepped up just after the mid-way mark of the third period.

Zdeno Chara let a wrist shot go that finally solved Anton Forsberg, who stopped 31-of-32 in the game.

Chara’s impact was felt again minutes later after an ill-advised high-sticking penalty gave the Blackhawks a four-minute power play.

Patrick Kane wasted no time snatching back the lead, firing a snapshot bar down past Khudobin for the go-ahead marker that would eventually be the game-winner.

Brent Seabrook would add the insurance marker with 1:05 left, putting the third goal past Khudobin, who negotiation 36-of-39 shots sent his way.

The Bruins trailed the Tampa Bay Lightning by six points heading into Sunday’s game, but owned three games in-hand. So chalk this one up as a missed opportunity to gain some ground against a team that won’t be playing in the playoffs this season.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

It’s Carolina Hurricanes day at PHT

2 Comments

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Carolina Hurricanes.

Despite changing their head coach and general manager, the 2014-15 season was more of the same for the Carolina Hurricanes.

For the sixth season in a row (and eight of their last nine campaigns), the Hurricanes failed to make the playoffs. Much like 2013-14, they were in the cellar of the East.

Granted, there are murmurs of hope; the Hurricanes subtly improved toward the end of the year and Carolina showed some signs of defensive improvement under head coach Bill Peters. Such patter sounds like baby steps in the grand scheme of things.

Despite some significant expenditures on that side of the puck, Peters identified scoring as a particularly glaring issue.

“We like where we are in terms of being able to take a step forward; it will depend on us having the ability to score,” Peters said, according to NHL.com. “We have to find a way to score more at 5-on-5.”

Off-season recap

GM Ron Francis faces tougher decisions soon, yet he was fairly busy this summer.

It was costly, but the organization cut ties with Semin via a pricey buyout.

In trading Anton Khudobin to Anaheim and acquiring Eddie Lack from Vancouver, Francis gives himself flexibility with Ward, as Lack could end up the No. 1 or even combine for a platoon situation. Swapping with Anaheim also netted an expensive upgrade to Carolina’s needy defense in James Wisniewski.

Optimists may cross their fingers that the Hurricanes will opt for a youth movement. Blueline prospect Noah Hanifin joins Elias Lindholm, Justin Faulk, Victor Rask and Ryan Murphy as intriguing young talents who aren’t in limbo like Jordan Staal or Jeff Skinner.

***

This time it really does feel like a fork-in-the-road season for the Hurricanes, even if it also seems like the organization has been procrastinating when it comes to making difficult (yet crucial) decisions.

Will things finally start to turn Carolina’s way in 2015-16?

Ducks re-sign Silfverberg: four years, $15 million

14 Comments

The Anaheim Ducks locked in one of their talented young forwards on Friday, announcing they’ve signed Jakob Silfverberg to a four-year extension.

Per NHL.com, it’s a $15 million deal with a $3.75M average annual cap hit, a fairly significant bump from the $850,500 he made last season.

Not that Silfverberg didn’t earn it.

The 24-year-old set career-highs across the board last year in games played (81), goals (13) and points (39). But it was in the playoffs where Silfverberg really took his game to the next level; he tied Corey Perry for second on the team in points (18) and finished just four assists back of Ryan Getzlaf — impressive, given Getzlaf is one of the league’s premier table-setters.

The Silfverberg extension is the latest in what’s been a busy summer for Ducks GM Bob Murray. At the draft, he traded for both Anton Khudobin and Carl Hagelin; later, he traded for and gave Kevin Bieksa a two-year, $8 million extension, then inked Ryan Kesler to a monster six-year, $41.25 million extension.

In free agency, Murray added veterans Shawn Horcoff, Chris Stewart, Shane O’Brien and Brian McGrattan.

Ducks goalie Bobkov signs in KHL

1 Comment

Anaheim netminder Igor Bobkov has signed a two-year pact with Russian club Admiral Vladivostok, per Championat.

Bobkov, 24, was the Ducks’ third-round pick at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. While he never played a regular-season game for the club, he was called up last season when both John Gibson and Frederik Andersen went down to injury (Bobkov briefly backed up Jason LaBarbera, who saw all the action.)

His move to Russia comes after Ducks GM Bob Murray acquired Anton Khudobin from Carolina at the draft. Khudobin is slated to be Andersen’s backup next year — Gibson is expected to get more seasoning in the AHL — which sort of left Bobkov as the odd goalie out, hence him signing in Vladivostok.

Under Pressure: Anaheim’s goaltenders

9 Comments

While GM Bob Murray went and made upgrades to his blue line (Kevin Bieksa) and forward group (Chris Stewart, Carl Hagelin & Shawn Horcoff) during the offseason, one area of concern heading into the 2015-16 season is the Ducks’ goaltending situation.

Anaheim did acquire Anton Khudobin from the Carolina Hurricanes at the NHL Draft, but it’s hard to say the 29-year-old is the solution to the Ducks’ problem of inexperience in goal. Khudobin, who made 34 appearances with the Canes’ last season going 8-17-6, has never played a Stanley Cup playoff game.

Khudobin is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the upcoming season.

Frederik Andersen, who was the Ducks’ starter in 2014-15, looked great in the playoffs against the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames, but against an experienced Blackhawks team, he faltered down the stretch.

The 25-year-old was 35-12-5 in 54 regular season games posting a 2.38 G.A.A. and a .914 save percentage. He appeared in all 16 playoff games posting an 11-5 record. After a sweep of the Jets and a five-game series win over the Flames, he struggled against the Blackhawks.

Andersen failed to register a save percentage higher than .875 in any of the last four games of the Western Conference Final – the Ducks won just one of those games.

Given that it was just his second full season in the league, it’s clear Andersen’s career is trending in the right direction, but with a core group of forwards that includes Ryan Getzlaf (30), Corey Perry (30) and Ryan Kesler (turning 31 on Aug. 31), do the Ducks have time to wait for the Dane to gain the necessary playoff experience to help them win a Stanley Cup?

Andersen is a restricted free agent next summer.

John Gibson is the third goaltender in the fold with the Ducks heading into the 2015-16 season.

The 22-year-old was the Ducks’ opening night starter last October dropping a 6-3 decision in his native Pittsburgh. Gibson was sidelined by a groin injury in early November allowing Andersen to take the reins.

Once healthy, Gibson found himself in the American Hockey League. He made 23 appearances with the Ducks last season posting a 13-8-0 record to go along with a 2.60 G.A.A. and a .914 save percentage. He also played 11 games with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals going 6-3-2.

“I’ve got to believe Gibby, now that he’s healthy, he wants to play,” said Boudreau during his year-end media availability. “He’s not used to sitting on the bench. And I think Freddie has gotten a taste of what it’s like to be No. 1 and he won’t let it up. I would venture to guess it would be a pretty good battle.”

Gibson is heading into the final year of his contract and will be a restricted free agent next summer.

With a combined 27 games of playoff experience under their belt, the Ducks goaltenders are under pressure heading into the 2015-16 season.