Bobrovsky, Holtby and Price named 2017 Vezina finalists


The NHL announced the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy on Saturday: Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby and Carey Price.

Each goalie has one Vezina to his name, with Holtby aiming for back-to-back wins. Here’s a quick look at their stats in 2016-17:

Bobrovsky: 41 wins (third), 63 games played, 41-17-5, .931 save percentage, 2.06 GAA and seven shutouts

Holtby: 42 wins (tied for first), 63 GP, 42-13-6, .925 save percentage, 2.07 GAA and nine shutouts.

Price: 37 wins (tied for fifth), 62 GP, 37-20-5, .923 save percentage, 2.23 GAA and three shutouts.

The league’s GMs vote on the Vezina, for what it’s worth.

This continues a tough night for Devan Dubnyk, who ranks as one of the leading choices among goalies who failed to become a nominee. He had 40 wins and a .923 save percentage, but may have been penalized for a weak finish.

Cam Talbot was a workhorse for Edmonton, tying Holtby for 42 wins while easily leading the NHL in saves (1,946) and save attempts (2,117). His wins and workload would help his cause, but perhaps GMs knocked his .919 save percentage from a “quality vs. quantity” standpoint.

Bobrovsky seems like the frontrunner on paper with that .931 save percentage, but then again, it may come down to the stats league executives weigh the most.

Blackhawks become prey as Predators make huge statement with sweep


The Nashville Predators managed something they’ve never done before and something basically no one manages to do on Thursday night.

For the first time in franchise history, they managed a playoff sweep. And it’s not like they did it against the Brooklyn Brawler; the Predators knocked out the top seed in the Chicago Blackhawks, the first time the Jonathan ToewsPatrick Kane edition of that team has ever been knocked out in four straight.

MORE: Blackhawks feel empty after resounding defeat

And make no mistake about it. Shutting down those two superstars and the other dangerous Blackhawks scorers ranks as one of their many rare accomplishments. They locked the series down with a convincing 4-1 victory tonight.

Pekka Rinne unquestionably deserves a ton of the credit. He remarkably managed two straight shutouts to begin the series. He almost had a third, but Toews scored his first tally of the series to spoil that late in Game 4.

Even so, it’s resounding that the Blackhawks were only able to score in two different periods during the entire series. Nashville outscored Chicago 13-3 in a stunning series.

MORE: No doubt about it, the Predators are brimming with confidence

While Rinne rightfully grabs a ton of headlines, plenty of other Predators stood out.

  • Ryan Johansen sure looks like the first-line center that Nashville was hoping for when they made that pivotal trade involving Seth Jones.

  • The Predators really enjoyed an advantage they subtly exploited during the season: their deep, talented defense was great. P.K. Subban didn’t score a ton – at least by his standards – but apparently he titled the ice.
  • It’s fitting that Viktor Arvidsson scored the empty-netter to really seal things up. He sure seemed to make more of a difference than merely getting two goals. You could probably make a similar argument for Kevin Fiala, who caused havoc with his speed and scored that crucial Game 3 double-overtime-clincher.
  • And, hey, Peter Laviolette gets a little revenge for the Blackhawks beating his Flyers in a Stanley Cup Final many moons ago.

The Predators came into 2016-17 with a lot of hype, but considering their place as the final team in the West, they didn’t always live up to it. Some of that was bad luck, some was poor execution.

Now the Predators dropped the team of this generation, a squad that was able to optimize its strengths enough to win the Central Division and No. 1 spot in the West.

Sure … with another first-round exit, there’s the question that maybe the Blackhawks are running low on  gas (or at least might suffer from “feast or famine” runs).

Of course, the thrilled fans at Bridgestone Arena might counter that it’s merely all coming together for a team that’s much better than its season indicated.

Penguins roll in Game 5, eliminate Blue Jackets


PITTSBURGH — It wasn’t always pretty, but the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to deliver the knockout punch to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night with a 5-2 win in Game 5 to punch their ticket to the second round.

There they will face the winner of the Washington Capitals-Toronto Maple Leafs series.

Thanks to some strong play from Marc-Andre Fleury (he made 49 saves on Thursday) and an overwhelming offensive attack the Penguins were able to overcome what was, at times, some sketchy play in the defensive zone to advance.

Bryan Rust continued his strong postseason play with two more goals (giving him eight in his past 14 playoff games) while Phil Kessel picked up three points (a goal, two assists) in the win.

Sidney Crosby and Scott Wilson also picked up goals in the win.

The big story in this series though was missed opportunities for the Blue Jackets in their continued failure to build on the fast start they had in pretty much every game, as well as a nightmare performance from Sergei Bobrovsky in net.

Bobrovsky, the likely Vezina Trophy winner this season and a player that will probably get his share of MVP votes, played some of his worst hockey of the season at the worst possible time. He surrendered at least three goals in every game (and at least four goals in four games) and just never seemed to be comfortable at any point in the series.

After giving up the first three goals on Thursday, the Blue Jackets tried to mount a late rally in the second period with a pair of goals to cut the deficit to one.

But following an Alexander Wennberg goaltender interference penalty early in the third period Crosby helped put the game away with a ridiculous one-timer.

Just 53 seconds later Wilson added his first goal of the playoffs.

2017 Calder Trophy finalists: Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews, Zach Werenski


The NHL has announced the finalists for the 2017 Calder Trophy, given to the league’s top rookie.

Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets were named finalists for the award.

Laine and Matthews were obvious choices given their exciting penchant for scoring, but there were several young players — William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Sebastian Aho to name a few — that could’ve easily been named the third finalist. Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association submitted their votes at the end of the regular season.

Matthews and Laine went No. 1 and No. 2 overall in last year’s draft, prompting incredible anticipation around the league for what they could accomplish this season. And they didn’t disappoint.

Matthews, 19, led all rookies in scoring, with 40 goals and 69 points, helping the Maple Leafs to a playoff position. His NHL career began with a record-setting debut and he continued to delight from there. He finished tied for second overall in goal scoring alongside Nikita Kucherov. Matthews ended the season only four goals behind Sidney Crosby, this year’s Rocket Richard Trophy winner.

Laine, who just turned 19 years old on Wednesday, finished fifth in overall goal scoring and second in rookie goal scoring. He tallied 36 goals, showing off an incredibly accurate and quick wrist shot. He also had 64 points, second behind Matthews in the rookie race.

Werenski, also 19 years old, had an impressive rookie season on defense for the Blue Jackets. He had 47 points in 78 games, averaging almost 21 minutes of ice time per game. His freshman campaign bodes well for the future in Columbus, especially since he plays such a difficult position for younger players in the league. Not only did he play, but he often excelled. Unfortunately, he suffered a facial fracture in Game 3 of the Blue Jackets’ first-round series with Pittsburgh, ending his season.

The winner will be announced June 21 at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

Blue Jackets’ Foligno will miss Game 5 with lower-body injury

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PITTSBURGH — Already playing without their top defenseman, the Columbus Blue Jackets will also be without their captain, Nick Foligno, when they take the ice for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

The Blue Jackets announced just before the start of the game that Foligno is sidelined with a lower body injury.

He will be replaced in the lineup by veteran forward Scott Hartnell who did not play in Game 4.

It’s a bit of a surprise given that Foligno did not seem to be injured in the Blue Jackets’ Game 4 win (though he did play just 17 minutes, his lowest total of the series) and coach John Tortorella announced earlier in the day there would be no lineup changes for Thursday.

In four games this postseason Foligno has no goals and two assists (both in Game 3).

He finished the regular season with 26 goals and 25 assists in 79 games.