2010 NHL Playoffs: Capitals vs. Candiens Game 7 Notes

Capitals.jpgHere are some news and notes from around the blogosphere leading up
to tonight’s momentous Game 7.

First, let’s start off with owner
Ted Leonsis. He’s an opinionated fella, and the Capitals’ fan sense of
“us against the world” persona starts with him. With a post full of
one-word descriptors, here’s what he
had to say about tonight’s game:

Rise above it.

Lead.

Execute.

Win.

Simple.

Wish
us lotsa luck and good fortune.

Lotsa love back at you.

Go
Caps.

More after the jump.

Ted
Starkey of the Washington Times
says that the Capitals are facing
one heck of a ugly end to one incredible season.

During
the last few weeks of the regular season, Washington turned in
some of its worst efforts against teams playing for their playoff lives,
unable to match their opponent’s intensity.

[snip]

Now, there is no more room for error for the
Capitals if they want to
keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive, as they must turn in a good
60-minute effort on Wednesday, or head home as victims of one of the
largest upsets in Stanley Cup playoff history.

Because we all really wanted it here is Barry
Melrose’s advice for the Capitals, passed
along by Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Blog:

“You
watch Detroit play with Holmstrom, you watch Philly play, you
watch Vancouver play, you watch Pittsburgh play, you watch Boston play.
Boston, not nearly as talented a team as Washington, but they just put a
man in front of the net and they made [Ryan] Miller’s life tough every
time he sees the puck or wants to see the puck.

“Washington’s got
to get to that mentality. It’s not gonna be pretty
goals that beat the Montreal Canadiens. It’s gonna be tip-in goals,
deflection goals, rebound goals that beat the Montreal Canadiens.”

I actually agree with Melrose here. The Capitals were able to get
under the skin of Halak in Game 2 and 3 by crashing the net and not
letting him get comfortable in the crease. It’s something they’re going
to have to duplicate again tonight.

Also from Dan Stenberg, these
thoughts from Bruce Boudreau:

“I think you’re
gonna see a great hockey game with both teams willing
to do anything it takes to win,” Boudreau continued. “Both teams are in
a Game 7 in a hard-fought series where you’ve got one guy playing when
he pulls his teeth out, other guys on Montreal playing definitely
injured. That’s what character is….

“We’ve played 10 games against ’em, and every
game has been exactly the same way. The only surprise is is that the
media makes it that because we ended up so far ahead of them, that there
should be a surprise. It’s no surprise to me or the group that’s on the
ice now.”

I’m not exactly surprised by what’s
happened in this series, because of how well the Habs played the
Capitals in the regular season. What I am surprised by is how the
Capitals keep waiting to turn it on, and turn it on, and here they are
in a Game 7. Again.

According to Habs
Inside/Out
, Jaroslav Spacek is a game-time decision for the
Canadiens:

Canadiens defenceman Jaroslav Spacek, who
has missed the past three
games with a virus, skated this morning with his team and will be a
game-time decision for tonight’s Game 7, according to head coach Jacques
Martin.

Finally, defenseman Karl Alzner is set to
make his NHL playoff debut tonight for the Washington Capitals,
replacing Tom Poti who will miss the game after being hit in the face
with a puck in Game 6. Here’s some thoughts by Alzner, courtesy
of Tarik El-Bashir of Capitals Insider:

“When I
did get the call I was like, ‘That’s kind of strange,'” Alzner
after the morning skate at KCI. “Because there were still [other
defensemen available] here. But [maybe his history with John Carlson] is
what they were thinking about. I’m happy that they did.”

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    Somehow, Artemi Panarin is in trade rumors again

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    One reaction to the head-spinning series of trades that sent Mike Hoffman to the Florida Panthers was that the trade market for big-time forwards dried up considerably. Would the Montreal Canadiens see less interest in Max Pacioretty with Hoffman off the table and the Panthers no longer shopping, for example?

    Well, we might not need to worry about the market drying up, depending upon how one very interesting situation plays out.

    Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Columbus Blue Jackets are “testing the market” for Artemi Panarin after Panarin revealed that he’s not yet ready to discuss a contract extension.

    Panarin, 26, can become an unrestricted free agent after his $6 million cap hit expires following the 2018-19 season. One can absolutely understand why Panarin would want to maximize his value during the summer of 2019. Despite earning a Calder Trophy in 2015-16 and basically being a star since he entered the NHL following a strong KHL career, Panarin’s been in a tough spot when it comes to leverage, whether it be during his Chicago Blackhawks days or now with Columbus.

    So it makes a lot of sense that Panarin wants the freedom to “test the market” himself.

    It also is sensible that Columbus wants to gauge its financial future regarding Panarin and others.

    The 2019 summer stands as a terrifying obstacle for the Blue Jackets, as Sergei Bobrovsky stands alongside Panarin as a pending UFA who could be in line for a big raise (even more than Bob’s current cap hit of $7.425M).

    If that isn’t enough to make you mutter a “yikes,” consider that superstar defenseman Zach Werenski and coveted backup Joonas Korpisalo are both slated to become RFAs next off-season.

    To recap: the Blue Jackets don’t know how much it would cost to retain Panarin, Bobrovsky, and Werenski after next season.

    /insert another yikes.

    By just about every measure, Panarin proved that he wasn’t merely Patrick Kane‘s running mate during his first season in Columbus. Panarin’s 82 points weren’t just a career-high, they also topped all Blue Jackets scorers by 25 points.

    (Seth Jones came in second with 57. You have to reach all the way down to rookie Pierre Luc-Dubois’ 48 points to find the next highest-scoring Blue Jackets forward. Yeah.)

    Oh yeah, Panarin was also a force during Columbus’ series against the Washington Capitals, scoring an overtime game-winner that oozed swagger:

    That skill and swagger will come at a cost, and maybe the Blue Jackets would be forced to cut their losses via a trade? If Panarin is truly available, then any contender should go big to try to land him. His skills and affordable $6M cap hit make him a true game-changer.

    Of course “testing the market” doesn’t mean that the Blue Jackets are likely to make a move. This could be more like dipping a toe in the water rather than diving in the deep end.

    Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen provided the response you would expect to Friedman:

    Still, it’s fascinating to imagine all of the possibilities. Could the Vegas Golden Knights absorb some of Columbus’ other cap worries to grease the wheels? Might the Penguins improbably move Phil Kessel in some sort of mega-trade? Maybe the San Jose Sharks would get in on the star winger, or could it be the offense-needy Blues? (Remember, Vladimir Tarasenko campaigned enthusiastically for Panarin before he signed his first NHL deal.)

    It’s all a lot of fun to think about, as people arguably still don’t realize how great Panarin is.

    Well, it’s fun to get your imagination going unless you’re a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Then you’re fearful that your team’s first true “gamebreaking” forward might just break your heart.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Will Hoffman, Panthers get the last laugh?

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    Some of the hottest rivalries in hockey intensified on Tuesday.

    No, not Penguins – Capitals or Bruins – Canadiens. Not even Matthew Tkachuk versus the Kings or Brad Marchand against that frozen pole in “A Christmas Story.”

    Instead, two of Hockey Twitter’s favorite punchlines united – eventually – as Mike Hoffman (who will never want to scroll Twitter again) was traded to the Florida Panthers (who may never stop hearing about sending Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith to Vegas … at least on Twitter).

    You could almost feel snarky hockey fans thanking the Panthers for efficiently consolidating their jokes into one spot. (Granted, not all of their jokes; the Canadiens and Senators are still reliable for that.)

    The juicy part is that maybe, just maybe, Hoffman and the Panthers can band together to get the last laugh against their hecklers?

    Let’s dig a little deeper on the shared motivations for the team and their newly acquired top-six winger.

    The Panthers finished the season on a tear

    Yes, Florida missed the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, giving them plenty of opportunities to painfully watch the Vegas Golden Knights’ deep run from the comfort of their own homes. (They probably opted to go to the beach or play golf instead, but still.)

    It’s easy to forget how strong a push the Cats made for one of the East’s final playoff spots, though.

    As a reminder, the Panthers finished with 96 points, leaving them a mere point behind the New Jersey Devils for the East’s final wild card spot after ending 2017-18 on a five-game winning streak. Consider that, since the calendar turned to 2018, Florida went 27-14-3. That tied them for seventh overall in points (57) during that span, and their 27 wins was the fifth-best mark.

    (Again, not in the conference, but in the entire NHL.)

    Pieces falling into place

    While it’s fun to mock GM Dale Tallon’s decisions during the 2017 summer – by all means, keep the chuckles coming – it’s not true to say that every choice was a poor one.

    That’s particularly poignant if the Panthers believed that they couldn’t add Evgenii Dadonov without getting rid of Reilly Smith.

    During his first NHL season since 2011-12, the Russian winger generated 28 goals and 65 points in 74 games. Smith and Dadonov bring a lot of things to the table, including both forwards standing as strong possession players.

    Dadonov wasn’t just a fantastic addition. He was also effective enough that the Panthers were starting to find a better balance among their top forwards.

    Eventually, Nick Bjugstad enjoyed some of the best stretches of his career finishing chances created by Dadonov and Aleksander Barkov, as that trio formed one of the league’s scariest top lines. Meanwhile, Jonathan Huberdeau trickled down to the second line, and he really seemed to build something promising with Vincent Trocheck.

    Now, the natural joke is to say “Wow, now imagine how great they’d be with all of those guys alongside Marchesssault and Smith?”

    That’s fair, but it might not be that simple for a budget team.

    And also …

    Adding a key piece

    … Hoffman could really make things interesting, and dull some of the ache that comes with being a go-to punchline on social media.

    Florida (claims to) give Hoffman a clean slate, while Hoffman brings undeniable sniping abilities to a roster that could be downright scary if they don’t need to make any key subtractions this summer.

    The 28-year-old scored 22 goals last season, which was actually his lowest total since he began his 20+ goal streak in 2014-15. Hoffman’s 104 goals ranks 24th in the NHL during that timeline, leaving him ahead of players such as James Neal, Taylor Hall, Blake Wheeler, and Mark Scheifele.

    It’s notable that, with a $5.19 million cap hit, Hoffman also fits into the mix of Panthers forwards who are solid-to-ridiculous bargains (Barkov being the biggest steal as a true star at just $5.9M per year). With two years of term remaining, the Panthers get some cost certainty while Hoffman should be hungry to drive up his value in the market.

    Of course, considering all of the things people will be snickering about on Twitter, his value is almost certain to go up.

    ***

    As a veritable scamp, I can’t in good consciousness advise people to stop making jokes about the Panthers and/or Hoffman. That would be like asking Alex Ovechkin not to enjoy his time with the Stanley Cup.

    That said, there’s a decent chance that Hoffman and the Panthers could silence at least some of their critics next season. Or at least win enough games to change the tone of some of the mockery.

    Update: Hoffman provided this statement on the move.

    More on the Mike Hoffman trade

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    NBC Sports to present exclusive coverage of 2018 NHL Draft, NHL Awards

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    NBC Sports will present live, exclusive coverage of the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft this Friday, with NHL Live at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.  In addition, NBCSN will televise the NHL Awards on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET from Las Vegas, as the NHL celebrates the top performers of the 2017-18 season from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

    2018 NHL DRAFT FROM DALLAS – FRIDAY AT 7:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN

    The 2018 NHL Draft is headlined by Sweden’s Rasmus Dahlin, a 6-foot-3 defenseman who tallied seven goals and 13 assists with Frölunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League in 2017-18. Dahlin, who is widely considered as the top prospect in the draft, can become just the sixth defenseman taken first overall since 1994.

    A trio of forwards – Andrei Svechnikov (Russia) of the Barrie Colts (Ontario Hockey League), Brady Tkachuk (United States) of Boston University (Hockey East), and Filip Zadina (Czech Republic) of the Halifax Mooseheads (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) – are also expected to be early first-round selections. Svechnikov scored 40 goals in 44 games for the Colts in 2017-18, Tkachuk led Boston University with 23 assists and finished fourth on the team in scoring, and Zadina totaled 44 goals and 38 assists for the Mooseheads. Three Americans, including Tkachuk, Quinn Hughes (University of Michigan) and Oliver Wahlstrom (U.S. National Under-18 Team), are projected to be picked early in the first round.

    The New York Rangers lead all teams with three selections in the first round (9th, 26th, and 28th), and Original Six teams have a combined nine first-round picks this year.

    Liam McHugh and Kathryn Tappen will host coverage alongside Emmy Award-winning analyst Pierre McGuire and NHL Insiders Bob McKenzie, Craig Button and Darren Dreger. Coverage will include a pre-game feature on the friendship formed between Tkachuk and Hughes, and a segment on Wahlstrom, who became famous at the age of nine for a trick shot he performed before a Bruins game at TD Garden.

    2018 NHL Draft order

    2018 NHL AWARDS FROM LAS VEGAS – WEDNESDAY AT 8 P.M. ET ON NBCSN

    The 2018 NHL Awards will recognize the best regular-season players in a variety of categories, including most valuable player (Hart Trophy), outstanding goaltender (Vezina Trophy), outstanding defenseman (Norris Trophy) and outstanding rookie (Calder Trophy). The Ted Lindsay Award, which is presented annually to the “most outstanding player” in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), will also will be awarded. Vegas Golden Knights’ George McPhee and Gerard Gallant are finalists for General Manager of the Year and the Jack Adams Award, respectively. New Jersey’s Taylor Hall, Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon are all finalists for the Hart Trophy.

    2018 NHL Award finalists
    Hart Trophy
    Ted Lindsay Award
    Jack Adams Award

    Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award
    King Clancy Trophy
    Calder Trophy

    Bill Masterton Trophy
    Lady Byng Trophy
    Norris Trophy
    Selke Trophy
    Vezina Trophy
    GM of the Year

    Humboldt Broncos to reunite at NHL Awards show

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    The Humboldt Broncos will be reuniting in Las Vegas this week, as 10 of the surviving members of the team will be honored at the NHL Awards on Wednesday night.

    Nine of the 10 players flew from Calgary to Vegas on Monday, while the 10th person, Ryan Straschnitzki, travelled from Philadelphia, where he’s undergoing physiotherapy.

    On April 6th, 16 people were killed and 13 more were injured when a semi-trailer hit the Broncos bus in Saskatchewan. Since then, the hockey community has rallied to help support the wounded players and the families who lost loved ones on the bus. The GoFundMe campaign aimed to raise money for the families affected by the crash raised an incredible $15 million.

    “It’s just going to be great to see everyone,” said Xavier LaBelle, per the Canadian Press. “It’ll be pretty emotional, but we’ll be there for each other.”

    The NHL Awards will also feature special commemorations for the first responders and survivors of the Vegas shooting that occurred in October and the hockey team of the Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida.

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.