Five Thoughts: Bruins domination in Game 3 and hopes for Winnipeg

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Depending on your thoughts about how a 2-0 game goes down, chances are you might’ve been far more entertained by the other news of the day yesterday. While Tim Thomas was busy shutting out a seemingly listless Lightning team, reports indicate that the Thrashers are indeed headed off to Winnipeg. All that means right now is that we’ve got a lot to sound off on in our Five Thoughts this morning.

1. We knew going into Game 3 that it wouldn’t be the up-and-down madness of goals and high-tempo play that we saw in Game 2 between Boston and Tampa Bay, but even last night’s game came off as way more of a letdown considering. Thankfully, Tim Thomas was there to save us and the game with some of his patented ridiculous saves. Tampa Bay really pushed play in the first period including a flurry of shots that saw Thomas come up especially huge.

After two games that saw Thomas both get hung out to dry at points and struggle with the Lightning attack, they got a prototypical Bruins-style game out of everyone and shut things down hardcore. If the Bruins play more games like that, they’ll do very well the rest of the way.

2. I don’t like to be critical of players before they’ve really shown they don’t have what it takes to keep up with things in the NHL, but I’m casting my worried gaze towards Victor Hedman. David Krejci’s goal in the first period happened when Hedman went to go help Brett Clark in the corner to go after the puck, leaving Krejci all alone in front of the net to score.

While Guy Boucher’s system calls for players to rotate around to make sure no one’s left alone like that, that’s a situation where Hedman absolutely cannot leave his man to blindly stick to the system. While Dominic Moore and Steve Downie offered no help there as they were both caught up in chasing Nathan Horton, all it took was one quick decision by Hedman to get after Milan Lucic to make things fall apart in an instant.

If Hedman can’t stick by a forward in front of the net that’s a bad matchup to make a forward race down to get on him. While Hedman’s eaten up big minutes through the playoffs, he lacks a physical element to his game and his offensive numbers don’t pop. Hmm…

3. If the Lightning weren’t worried about Patrice Bergeron coming back, after seeing him in Game 3 they should know better. While Bergeron didn’t factor in the scoring, it’s everything else he can do to help give the Bruins an edge that makes him a difficult matchup for Tampa. With Bergeron and Krejci out there to take faceoffs, the Bruins were able to control play right off the bat 67% of the time. Bergeron won 64% of his draws while Krejci won an astounding 72% of his.

With Tampa Bay unable to win draws anywhere on the ice, getting their offense started or getting their defense a break just didn’t happen. Guys like Vincent Lecavalier, Dominic Moore, and Steve Stamkos had better get working on those draws during practice before Saturday afternoon’s Game 4 (1:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

4. All right Winnipeg, it looks like you’re going to get an NHL team back. After all the hardship after the Jets moved to Phoenix, they’re being rewarded with the Thrashers as their situation in Atlanta appears ready to peter out without a local buyer to step in. Since this move seems all but done, let’s again reignite our stand about one thing: Call them the Jets.

I don’t care if it’s the Winnipeg Jets or the Manitoba Jets, but with the NHL apparently holding the rights to the Jets name, getting that name back and bringing back that name and the history of the team is the thing that makes most sense. There’s talk that True North wants to hang on to the Manitoba Moose name or may want to go with something else entirely different, but it was the memories and the history of the Jets going back to their days in the WHA that kept hope alive in the small Manitoba city of ever getting the NHL back. Now that it’s seemingly about to happen, here’s to hoping that Mark Chipman and David Thomson tell their ad wizards to stuff it and honor the city’s NHL past moving forward.

After all, which jerseys do you think are going to sell more once this is a done deal, Jets retro merchandise (which the NHL already sells a ton of) or whatever board room creation True North might come up with? There’s a reason why fans who gathered on the streets in Winnipeg last night after Stephen Brunt’s report of a deal being done started chanting “Go Jets Go” and it’s not because they were telling the Thrashers to hurry up and fly into town.

5. As for whether or not realignment happens this year or next, there doesn’t seem to be any good reason why it can’t happen this year. By all accounts the NHL prepared for this possibility by drawing up multiple schedules for next season factoring in whether or not the team would be in Atlanta or Winnipeg. According to Brunt, this is also a deal that the owners wrote off on depending on what the negotiated sale price was a few weeks ago.

Instead of having the Winnipeg team play a lame duck and horrible travel season in the Southeast Division and making everything harder for everyone in the Eastern Conference for a year, it just makes too much sense to have things prepared in advance and ready to roll since this was something the league knew might happen. It’s not as if the NHL doesn’t know who’s interested in coming to the Eastern Conference to take the Thrashers spot. Here’s to hoping the NHL did things the right way as opposed to their own way.

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.

Bruins rolling, rest of NHL making final push for playoffs

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
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SUNRISE, Fla. — Bruce Cassidy’s Vegas Golden Knights lost eight of 10 games going into the All-Star break after leading the Pacific Division at the midway point of the NHL season.

They’re still safely in a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they can’t keep it up.

“We’re still in a good position – that’s the way we look at it,” Cassidy said. “There’s not too many teams that can cruise home the last 30 games in this league, and we’re certainly not one of them.”

Cassidy’s old team, the Boston Bruins, probably could. They’re atop the NHL and running away with the Atlantic Division.

With 39 wins and 83 points through 51 games, Boston is on pace to break the record for the best regular season in NHL history. The Carolina Hurricanes, who beat Boston in seven games in the first round last year, are next in the standings at 76 points.

“Top to bottom, there’s no weaknesses,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said.

The Bruins are in a class of their own, but the playoff races behind them in the East and West should be hot down the stretch with roughly 30 games to go before the chase for the Stanley Cup begins.

METROPOLITAN DIVISION

The Hurricanes rode a seven-game winning streak into the break, putting some fear into the Bruins in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage through the postseason. Winger Max Pacioretty re-tearing his right Achilles tendon five games into his return didn’t slow them down, and if their goaltending holds up, Carolina stands a good chance of reaching the East final.

“This team, it’s a special group of guys,” said Brind’Amour, who captained Carolina to the Cup in 2006 and is in his fifth year as coach. “We kind of show that nightly. It’s just very consistent, and they take their job real serious. They do it right.”

The second-place New Jersey Devils are contending for the first time since 2018. Bottoming out the next season helped them win the lottery for No. 1 pick Jack Hughes, a two-time All-Star who has them winning ahead of schedule.

“Much better than being out of the mix,” Hughes said. “We’re really excited because it’s going to be a lot of important hockey, and it’s going to be really competitive and we’re really pumped to be where we are.”

They’re followed by the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. All three New York-area teams could make it, which was the expectation for the Rangers after reaching the East final last year.

“I think the run last year really taught us a few things and stuff that we obviously could build on for the rest of this year,” 2021 Norris-Trophy winning defenseman Adam Fox said.

ATLANTIC

The Rangers lost to the Lightning in six games last spring, when two-time champion Tampa Bay reached the Stanley Cup Final for the third consecutive season before getting beat by the Colorado Avalanche.

The Lightning are almost certain to face the Toronto Maple Leafs – who haven’t won a playoff series since the NHL salary cap era began in 2005 – in the first round and remain a threat to the Bruins.

But Boston has separated itself despite starting the season without top left winger Brad Marchand and No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins have lost only 12 games under new coach Jim Montgomery.

“You just keep winning,” said All-Star right winger David Pastrnak, who’s tied for third in the league in scoring. “Every single line and every single guy is going and it obviously builds our confidence. It’s funny sometimes what confidence can do in hockey.”

The Islanders should have some more confidence after acquiring 30-goal scorer Bo Horvat from Vancouver, but still need to make up ground to get in.

CENTRAL

Defending champion Colorado climbed in the standings – winning seven of eight going into the break despite an injury-riddled first half of the season. Captain Gabriel Landeskog still has not made his season debut since undergoing knee surgery. It would be foolish to bet against the Avs coming out of the West again.

“It’s up to us: We control our own fate,” All-Star center Nathan MacKinnon said. “We need to definitely keep playing the way we were before the break. No matter who’s in the lineup we were playing well, playing hard, so it would definitely help with healthy bodies.”

They still trail the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild in the Central, and the Nashville Predators are on their heels. Only the Stars and Jets are essentially guaranteed a spot.

“Every point, you grind for it,” Stars leading scorer Jason Robertson said. “Every point’s going to be a dog fight, so it’s going to be a fun 30 games down the stretch.”

PACIFIC

Undisputed MVP favorite Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, who were swept by Colorado in the West final, have a little bit of catching up to do in the Pacific Division.

The top spot is held by the Seattle Kraken, who surprisingly are on pace to make the playoffs in their second season but still need to fend off the Los Angeles Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights.

Edmonton – and the Battle of Alberta rival Calgary Flames – have the talent to not only get in but make a run. McDavid leads the league with 41 goals and 92 points, 16 more than No. 2 scorer and teammate Leon Draisaitl, and is producing unlike anyone since Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux in the mid-1990s.

Now he’ll try to carry the Oilers into the playoffs and beyond.

“It hasn’t been easy at all for our group. We’ve kind of had to battle for everything that we’ve got,” McDavid said. “We’ve always been a second-half team for whatever reason. Even since my first year, we’ve always been better in the second half, so we’ll definitely look to continue that. That being said, we’re not going to hang our hat on that and expect that to carry us to the playoffs. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Capitals sign Sonny Milano to 3-year, $5.7 million extension

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Washington Capitals signed winger Sonny Milano to a three-year extension worth $5.7 million.

General manager Brian MacLellan announced the contract, adding to an already busy All-Star break for taking care of future business. The Capitals extended forward Dylan Strome for five years, $25 million.

Like Strome, Milano has fit in as a new addition for Washington. He’s now set to count $1.9 million against the salary cap through the 2025-26 season.

The 26-year-old Milano has been a near-perfect bargain signing for the Capitals after joining them on an NHL veteran one-year deal after this season got underway. He has eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points in 40 games since getting called up from Hershey of the American Hockey League.

Originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets 16th in 2014, Milano split his first eight seasons in the league with them and the Anaheim Ducks. He went unsigned as an unrestricted free agent last summer despite putting up 34 points in 66 games with Anaheim.