2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 3: Giroux perfect example of Flyers' resiliency

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Giroux.jpgIf we didn’t know it before, then we sure as heck know it now: the
Philadelphia Flyers are one of the most the resilient teams we’ve ever
seen in the postseason. At the heart of this team is a group of
determined forwards, who may not be the biggest stars in the NHL and
certainly don’t get as much attention as Jeff Carter, Dan Carcillo or
Mike Richards, but who are more important to the Flyers’ success than
any other.

Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and Ville Leino have lifted this team up
and placed them squarely on their own backs. In every deep postseason
run you need role players to step up and play the best hockey of their
lives, but I don’t think anyone anticipated the level these three have
reached.

They don’t play together, at least not all of the time, but these
three have been the difference in the postseason for the Flyers. Giroux,
who scored just 16 goals in 82 regular season games, now has 8 goals
and 17 points in the playoffs. He’s scored big goal after big goal, and
none has ever been bigger than his tipped goal that came 5:59 into the
first overtime.

With that tip, coming off a great play by Matt Carle at the point and
perfect anticipation by Giroux, the Flyers avoided a 3-0 hole in the
series and made things very interesting heading into Game 4.

“It’s huge. I don’t think guys want to do a comeback again from
3-0.” Giroux said. “So it was tough losing the first two games. If we
want to give us a chance to win the Series, we need to win this game
tonight. The message was pretty clear before the game, and guys showed
up.”

Giroux played some inspiring hockey against the Bruins and the
Canadiens, but had disappeared a bit in the first two games of the
series. There was no doubt that if the Flyers would pull off a comeback,
they’d need better play from the players a bit farther down the depth
chart. Giroux says that’s something he and his teammates were focused on
after the two games in Chicago.

“Anytime you’re not producing or playing well, you are just going to
keep it simple and go back just working hard. I think we did that, and
we tried to win as many battles as we could.”

Coach Laviolette says that Giroux was perhaps pressing too much,
playing too tight as he played in his first Stanley Cup finals. With the
series now back at home, the Flyers focused on just playing their game
in front of their home crowd, something that seemed to help Giroux in
the end.

“We talked about just having some fun tonight, come out and letting
everything roll,” Laviolette said after the game. “Go after him, and I
think he took that advice, because he was smiling all day. He came to
the rink and went out and played a great game. Sometimes you need to
loosen up a little bit. He’s a talented kid.”

Giroux, Briere and Leino all made tremendous plays tonight, but for
them it was just the same thing they’ve done all postseason long. None
of the players seemed overly excited about the win or their plays,
instead wanting to immediately focus on Game 4 and evening up the
series.

Leino in particular has come to life for the Flyers, and is perhaps
the biggest surprise of the playoffs. After the game he was soft spoken
and humble, saying that the Flyers “know exactly what we have to do” and
that for them this is just business as usual.

All postseason long the Flyers have found ways to overcome adversity
of any and every sort, but it’s something the Flyers have become
accustomed to. Laviolette believes that his team is at it’s best when
their backs are against the the wall.

“It’s been for a long time. Like I said this morning, 2-0 for us is
comfortable. We’re okay with that. We know how to battle through it.
We knew how important the game was tonight. Once we wake up
tomorrow morning, we know we have to hold serve on home ice. I think
the guys will be fine with that.”

This morning, the Flyers were one hell of a confident bunch and it
seemed as if they reveled in the fact they were facing a must-win
situation. They were calm and business like, yet loose and never acted
like a team that was down two games in the Stanley Cup finals. Yet no
matter what the circumstances, no matter how matter of fact the Flyers
are about this win, there’s no doubting how big that goal was for Claude
Giroux. This is one he’s going to remember for a long time, yet he’s
still focused on the task at hand.

“It’s obviously a big goal. It’s probably my biggest goal in my
career,” he said with a grin.

“I’m happy I was able to do that. As quick as we can put this
game behind us and be ready for game 4, it’s going to be huge. There’s a
lot of emotion tonight. But I think it’s important that we just focus
and be ready for game 4.”

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced Friday that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

Rasmus Sandin
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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.

Back with Wild, Fleury welcomes big workload as clear No. 1

marc-andre fleury
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — With his ever-present smile, tireless approach and long list of accomplishments in the net, Marc-Andre Fleury has always embraced a heavy workload.

The Minnesota Wild sure haven’t shied away from leaning hard on their new – and 37-year-old – goalie. After arriving in a deadline-day trade in March and re-signing with the Wild in July, the guy everyone calls “Flower” is still fully abloom as he begins his 19th season in the NHL.

“They say, `You play,’ I play, unless maybe I’m hurt or something,” Fleury said. “But other than that, I like playing.”

Wild general manager Bill Guerin initially planned to bring back both Fleury and Cam Talbot, who made the All-Star team and went 13-0-3 in his last 16 regular season starts before being benched in favor of Fleury for the first-round playoff series against St. Louis. The Wild lost in six games, after Talbot got the cold start in the elimination game and gave up four goals on 26 shots.

Guerin changed his mind, though, after signing Fleury to a two-year, $7 million contract. Realizing Talbot’s frustration from the lack of postseason action, he didn’t want to risk any tension or discontent. Talbot was traded to Ottawa for Filip Gustavsson, who will be the No. 2 goalie while top prospect Jesper Wallstedt gets more development in the AHL.

Gustavsson has only 23 career regular-season starts, nearly 200 fewer than Talbot, so it’s a good bet that Fleury will get the majority of the games.

“I was ready to share the load with him, but things didn’t work out and happy to be having the chance to play maybe a bit more. It’s fun to play. It’s more fun than sitting on the bench,” said Fleury, who went 28-23-5 in 56 combined starts for Chicago and Minnesota last season with a 2.90 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

The Wild reconvened for training camp last week, beginning their quest to recapture the mojo they enjoyed last season while setting franchise records for points (113), wins (53) and goals (305). The only team that finished ahead of them in the Western Conference was Colorado, which went on to win the Stanley Cup, but they never met the Avs in the playoffs because the Blues got to them first.

There’s a strong chemistry in place, at least, to build upon.

“We still have a lot of guys here who were here last year. We’re just trying to make it even better, just trying to listen to everybody,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said. “We want to set a standard and a way for how hard this team’s going to work.”

The Wild start the regular season by hosting the New York Rangers on Oct. 13.

COMINGS AND GOINGS

The most significant roster move of the summer amongst the skaters was the inevitable salary-cap-driven trade of second-leading scorer Kevin Fiala to Los Angeles. Fiala had a career-high 33 goals and 52 assists last season. Guerin otherwise dabbled mostly in two-way contracts in free agency for depth. Former Anaheim center Sam Steel signed with Minnesota last month, one day after defenseman Dimitry Kulikov was dealt to the Ducks.

MORE POWER

The Wild were done in during the playoffs by abysmal special teams. They went just 4 for 24 on the power play against the Blues, and head coach Dean Evason had the team working on that on the first day on the ice. The penalty kill that lagged last season was a focus of the second practice.

“It has to get better, no question,” Evason said.

BLUE LINE SHUFFLE

Captain Jared Spurgeon has been placed with Jonas Brodin on the first pair on defense, and Jake Middleton has joined Matt Dumba on the second unit. Dumba and Brodin are close friends who’ve been paired together for several seasons.

“Dumbs is a shooter too,” said Middleton, who re-signed for three years and $7.35 million. “It’s pretty exciting. I can get some cookies passing him the puck. That’d be a big plus. I think it’ll work well. He loves hitting guys too. He plays a gritty game as well so I think we’ll be a good combo.”

UP FRONT

With Jordan Greenway recovering from offseason surgeries, Tyson Jost will get the first chance to skate with Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. The departure of Fiala has opened at least one spot for a rookie to make the team, with 2020 first-round draft pick Marco Rossi in line for it.

ON THE SLATE

This is the first time in eight years the Wild will play their regular-season opener at home. After three more games at Xcel Energy Center, they don’t hit the road until a five-game trip that starts Oct. 22 at Boston. The Wild have a season-long nine-game homestand from Feb. 9-21.

Stars expect to open camp without unsigned scorer Jason Robertson

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FRISCO, Texas — Young 40-goal scorer Jason Robertson is expected to miss the start of training camp for the Dallas Stars because the team and the restricted free agent haven’t agreed on a new contract.

General manager Jim Nill said there’s been steady, ongoing negotiations over the last couple of weeks with Robertson and his representatives. Nill wouldn’t say what has kept the two sides from reaching a deal, adding there have been “very good discussions.”

The Stars, with new coach Pete DeBoer, open camp Thursday in Cedar Park, Texas, at the home of their AHL team. They have three days of work there before returning to North Texas for their exhibition opener at home on Monday night. They open the regular season Oct. 13 at Nashville.

“I think he’s disappointed he’s not at camp, we are too,” Nill said before the team departed for the Austin area. “I think it’s very important for a younger player and as you mentioned, the (new) coaching staff. … We do have some time on our side, but we wish he gets here as soon as he can.”

Robertson had a base salary of $750,000 last season, the end of a $2.775 million, three-year contract. He still has five more years before he has the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent.

The left wing turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when he had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

A second-round draft pick by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. He had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

DeBoer said he looks forward to coaching Robertson, but that the forward’s absence won’t change his plans for camp.

“It doesn’t impact what I’m doing,” DeBoer said. “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here. So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

Nill said the Stars are open to a long-term extension or a bridge contract for Robertson, who was part of the team’s top line last season with veteran Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz. They combined for 232 points, the second-most in franchise history for a trio.

“We’re open to anything. But other than that … I’m not going to negotiate through the media,” Nill said. “As I said, we’ve had good conversations. We’ll see where it goes.”