Evgeni Malkin

PHT’s Stanley Cup Final picks, once again featuring The Coin

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If you’re still not familiar with The Coin thing — a 1972 Eisenhower Dollar that we used in the opening three rounds — click here to get up to speed (and bask in all its coinly glow.)

The Coin continued its dominance in the conference finals, accurately predicting that the Bolts and ‘Hawks would advance to the Stanley Cup Final. The Coin improved to 10-4 overall this postseason. Other staff members (of the animate variety) to pick Tampa Bay-Chicago were Brough, Dadoun, Tucker and O’Brien. That leaves our records at:

Jason Brough: 9-5
Mike Halford: 8-6
Ryan Dadoun: 10-4
James O’Brien: 10-4
Cam Tucker: 11-3
Dhiren Mahiban: 9-5

Onto the Final…

Brough: Bolts in 7 (Preseason pick: Tampa Bay)

Easy pick for me. I chose the Lightning in October, and I don’t see any reason to abandon them now. Okay, maybe I see one reason: the Blackhawks. That’s a pretty good team they’ve got in Chicago. And I guess I haven’t been entirely impressed with the Lightning, who’ve been blown out four times at home in these playoffs and were, frankly, lucky to escape the first round. So that’s two reasons. But I’m a stubborn man and I truly do believe the Lightning have all the necessary pieces to upset the favored ‘Hawks.

Halford: Bolts in 7 (Preseason pick: Pittsburgh)

While I love a good narrative, I’m not fully buying into the “inexperienced Bolts will eventually succumb to the veteran Blackhawks” thing. Why? Well, a big part of the reason Tampa Bay’s here is because its young guys have defied expectations, and achieved success quicker than expected — including the coach (five years ago, Jon Cooper was in the USHL finals.) Tampa’s passed every test this postseason, including a historic win at MSG in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. The Bolt are skilled, they’re fast, they’re deep and, as the first three rounds have shown, they’re ready.

O’Brien: ‘Hawks in 6 (Preseason pick: Chicago)

Remember when the Islanders beat the Gretzky Oilers back in the 80’s, and “The Great One” remarked about the beat-up dynasty members icing themselves in the locker room rather than spraying each other with champagne after besting them for the Cup? This will be a modern version of that series: the Blackhawks will teach the Lightning how to win. Also: when in doubt, choose the West over the East.

Dadoun: ‘Hawks in 7 (Preseason pick: St. Louis)

Chicago doesn’t have the best goaltender in the NHL, but neither does Tampa Bay and at least Corey Crawford is more thoroughly battle tested. The Blackhawks’ bottom-two defensemen are questionable, but with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook leading the charge, they don’t necessary need to be deep to outplay the Lightning. Tampa Bay has plenty of offensive weapons, but Chicago has more proven big-game forwards.

Tucker: ‘Hawks in 6 (Preseason pick: Chicago)

The Tampa Bay Lightning have proven to be an exciting group with a promising future. But they’re facing a Blackhawks team that’s loaded with Stanley Cup champions, led by Jonathan Toews, who had his best moments in these playoffs when it mattered most in the Western Conference Final. Both Ben Bishop and Corey Crawford have gone through ups and downs in these playoffs, but Crawford has settled into a groove after the opening round, while Bishop’s struggles are more recent, and against a goal-strapped New York team. And the Blackhawks have a decidedly more dangerous lineup than the one Bishop faced against the Rangers.

Mahiban: ‘Hawks in 7 (Preseason pick: Chicago)

Chicago’s experience will prevail over the youth and inexperience of Tampa. The Blackhawks’ core pieces know what it takes to win at this time of year. The Bolts, meanwhile, are reminiscent of the 2008 Penguins when a young Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup final only to lose to Detroit. The experience served the Pens’ young core well as they made it back to the big dance a year later, topping the Wings.

Coin: ‘Hawks

/drops mic

Duchene slams Russian players for storming off after Canada’s 2015 WHC win

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Matt Duchene didn’t beat around the bush when asked about much of the Russian team storming off during Canada’s gold medal celebration and national anthem at the Worlds. He made it clear to Sportsnet 590 The Fan that he didn’t take the slight lightly.

“I’ve lost in that tournament three times, and twice was to Russia. We stood out and listened to their anthem,” Duchene said.

“We would never have dreamed of skating off the ice.”

It’s been made clear that some Russian players did stay out during Canada’s anthem, including Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. Duchene said that their gesture didn’t go unnoticed, and “that spoke to a lot of us” on Canada’s team.

He has harsh words for those who bolted, though.

MORE: Russia will be punished for “out of order” actions.

Apparently Jason Spezza relayed a story to Duchene regarding alleged poor sportsmanship from Alex Radulov that won’t exactly simmer things down:

“The one time he was saying that [Alexander] Radulov in Halifax was skating right by them, jumping on the boards with the Russian flag. [Canadian] guys were real close to leaving the blueline and go take a run at him,” Duchene said.

“Over time, you gotta pay it back. You can’t celebrate like that when you win and not respect when you lose. That’s something as Canadians we have a good understanding of. Some of the Russians did; some of them didn’t.”

Sheesh.

With Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk in the KHL (for now?), we might not see Duchene and most of the Russian players involved on the same sheet of ice until the next opportunity in international competition. (Surely he can single a player or two out, but some may point to Radulov and Kovalchuk in particular.)

Specifics aside, this incident adds a little spice and a lot of bitterness to the Canada – Russia hockey rivalry.

Check out highlights of Canada’s lopsided 2015 World Hockey Championships gold medal win below.

Bylsma praises ‘elite’ Eichel, cites experience of coaching star players

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Sidney Crosby is a star. So is Evgeni Malkin.

Jack Eichel might become one too and, if he does, there’s a chance it’ll be under the tutelage of new Sabres bench boss Dan Bylsma — the same guy Crosby and Malkin called coach for six years.

“You understand immediately the spotlight that is on those types of players, the star quality players,” Bylsma said on Thursday of his experience coaching elite talent. “I think you understand the pressure they’ll be going through, the analysis and the little eyes on them from just about everybody.

“I probably learned as much from working with those players — Sidney and Evgeni — as they learned from me. I think it’s going to be applicable to the likes of Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel, who are going to be viewed in that same light, that same scope that star players are put into.”

Eichel, barring a remarkable turn of events, will become Sabres property when they select second overall at this June’s entry draft. Dubbed a generational talent, Eichel is one of the most ballyhooed prospects in recent memory and while Bylsma’s experience coaching young stars (Crosby was 21 when they won a Cup together in Pittsburgh, Malkin was 22) is important, so too is his experience with the Boston University phenom — Bylsma was Eichel’s assistant coach at the recently-wrapped World Hockey Championships, where the two combined to capture bronze with Team USA.

“Having coached [Eichel] at the World Championships, you have a chance to see a guy who’s going to be an elite player,” Bylsma explained. “He’s got outstanding skill.

“You see him play against men, a lot of NHL players he matched up against — Malkin when we played against Russia, Tomas Plekanec when we played against the Czechs. He’s playing against NHL players and he stacked right up there with his skill, his size and his ability to play the game.”

Bylsma then broke into a smile.

“Jack’s going to be a good pick for anybody who does take him.”

Aside from Eichel, Buffalo has other talented youngsters for Bylsma to teach, like Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov, Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko. “Teach” really is the key word here; in explaining why he hired Bylsma, Sabres GM Tim Murray said the 44-year-old had all the necessary skills to educate the kids through the ongoing rebuild.

“[He’s a] great communicator,” Murray explained. “Obviously we’re going to be a young team, and we need somebody that knows how to teach, knows how to communicate. It’s not just telling someone what to do — it’s why they have to do that. There aren’t a lot of coaches that can do that, and I think Dan is one that can.

“We can talk about Xs and Os and all that later. It’s communication, it’s teaching, it’s understanding young people, understanding what they’re going through. I think he’s very good at those aspects of the game.”

Bob Clarke really doesn’t care for tanking

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Former Flyers captain and current Flyers executive Bob Clarke hates the idea of tanking.

Like, really hates it.

“It pisses me off that teams try to lose continually to come up with the Crosbys . . . and Malkins,” Clarke tells the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“The Flyers have never intentionally tried to lose. That would put a foul taste in my mouth. Who wants to be a part of any organization like that? I wouldn’t want to be.”

Ironically, Clarke’s remarks were found in an article about the Flyers’ 40-year Stanley Cup drought. Since winning their second straight title in 1975, they’ve been to the finals five times, losing all five times.

Most recently, in 2010, the Flyers lost to a Blackhawks team that was led by Jonathan Toews, the third overall pick in 2006, on a goal by Patrick Kane, the first overall pick in 2007.

As proven this year by the Rangers and Ducks, it’s not absolutely necessary to hit rock bottom in order to assemble a team capable of contending for a Stanley Cup. But the Blackhawks, champions in 2010 and 2013, bottomed out first. So did the Kings, allowing them to draft Drew Doughty second overall in 2008, and win it all in 2012 and 2014. And yes, the Penguins did too, drafting Evgeni Malkin second overall in 2004 and Sidney Crosby first overall in 2005. They won the Cup in 2009.

Oh, and has anyone noticed how important Victor Hedman, second overall in 2009, has been in the playoffs for the Lightning, whose captain, Steven Stamkos, was the first overall pick in 2008?

That’s why management in a place like Buffalo has done what it’s done over the past couple of years. And that’s why the Flyers have, until lately, received their share of criticism for choosing quick fixes over long-term solutions. In the salary-cap era, if winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal, there are clear incentives to — um, how did Darcy Regier once put it? — “go in a very distinct direction.”

There are no guarantees that direction will work out for the Sabres. Or the Oilers. Or the Leafs. Or the Coyotes. But until the incentives change, teams will continue to tank, whether some people like it or not.

Related: Snider says patience is ‘great with the kids,’ but not with ‘the team we have on the ice’

Russia to be punished for ‘completely out of order’ actions after Worlds final loss to Canada

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On Monday, IIHF president Rene Fasel had some choice — and ominous — remarks for Team Russia, which left the ice before Canada’s anthem was played following Sunday’s 6-1 loss in the World Hockey Championship final.

“The IIHF has its own protocol and some sort of punishment will be handed down,” Fasel told TASS, per Reuters. “When I saw what had happened, I was very upset. In the 29 world championships that I have had the honor of attending, this is the first time I have seen something like this.

“What the Russian team did was completely out of order.”

Watch full replay of championship final

Canada routed the Russians on the strength of four goals in 10 minutes spanning the first and second periods. The Canadians eventually pushed the lead to 6-0, before Evgeni Malkin scored a consolation marker for the Russians with under 10 minutes to play.

Following the game, the Russian team stayed out for the medal ceremony and individual award announcements, but left the surface prior to ‘O Canada’ being played.

According to various onlookers, former NHLer Ilya Kovalchuk reportedly waved his teammates off the ice (here’s a video from Russian sports writer Slava Malamud.) It’s worth noting that Washington captain Alex Ovechkin was trying to keep his Russian mates on:

Related: Canada creams Russia for WHC gold, Crosby joins ‘Triple Gold Club’