The Morning Skate: Can the Penguins survive?

7 Comments

A quick look at the Eastern Conference finals and notes from the Blackhawks’ road win last night.

Game 4: #1 Pittsburgh Penguins at #4 Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (on NBCSN and live online) – Bruins lead series, 3-0

In Game 3, the Bruins outlasted the Penguins in the longest game of the postseason, when Patrice Bergeron scored 15:19 into the second overtime. Tonight, the B’s will try to sweep the Pens to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three seasons. The Bruins are 5-0 all-time in Game 4s of best-of-seven series at home (13-5 overall) when up three-games-to-none.

The Penguins’ scoring deficiency, after leading the NHL in goals per game during the regular season (3.38) and the first two series this postseason (4.27), has been historic. With only two goals vs. Tuukka Rask and the Bruins, it marks only the second time in franchise history that the Pens have scored two or fewer goals in a three-game stretch in the playoffs (2001 Eastern Conference Final, Games 3-5, vs. New Jersey Devils). The six players with four or more goals coming into the conference final have a combined one (Chris Kunitz, Game 3).

 

FIRST TWO SERIES

THIS SERIES

Player

Goals

Goals

Shots on goal

Shot attempts

Sidney Crosby

7

0

9

17

Pascal Dupuis

7

0

6

15

James Neal

6

0

15

30

Chris Kunitz

4

1

8

17

Evgeni Malkin

4

0

20

34

Jarome Iginla

4

0

4

10

Shot attempts = shots on goal, attempts blocked and missed shots

The top six forwards on the B’s, on the other hand, have had few problems creating offense. The top line of Nathan Horton (two goals, three assists), David Krejci (four goals) and Milan Lucic (three assists) has combined for six goals, while the second line of Brad Marchand (two goals, assist), Patrice Bergeron (two goals, assist) and Jaromir Jagr (three assists) has four.

The Bruins’ only roster change will involve Gregory Campbell, the center on Boston’s “Merlot Line” with Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton. “Soupy” broke his right fibula while blocking a Evgeni Malkin slapshot, and will miss the remainder of the season.

WHO ON EARTH IS … KASPARS DAUGAVIŅŠ?

Perhaps the name is familiar. Kaspars Daugaviņš, the most likely roster replacement (along with Carl Söderberg and Jay Pandolfo) for the injured Gregory Campbell in Game 4, has already suited up for the Bruins this postseason, playing 9:52 in the B’s Game 1 defeat of the Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Doesn’t ring a bell? You remember him from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where he represented Latvia and registered six shots on goal in four games (zero points). Still no? But certainly you’ve seen the most memorable shootout miss (see link) in NHL history, when he was a member of the Ottawa Senators, playing against the Bruins, on March 11.

That daring attempt, which he had first tested in the AHL two seasons earlier, was stopped by the Bruins’ starting goaltender Tuukka Rask. In the Senators’ next game against Boston, he scored his only goal of the 2012-13 season, beating the B’s backup, Anton Khudobin, in what would be his final game in Canada’s capital. On March 26, he was placed on waivers by the Sens and picked up the following day by the Bruins.

DID YOU KNOW?

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have never scored fewer than three points in a playoff series. Crosby had one goal and two assists in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final vs. Detroit, and Malkin had one goal and two assists in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final vs. Detroit and the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Montreal.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Chicago 3, Los Angeles 2 – Blackhawks lead series, 3-1

Marian Hossa scored 1:10 into the third period – his seventh goal of the postseason – to lift the Blackhawks to a 3-2 victory over the Kings in Game 4. Bryan Bickell (his eighth goal, T-2nd in NHL) and Patrick Kane also scored, as Chicago overcame the absence of top defenseman Duncan Keith (suspension). The Kings, who got goals from Slava Voynov and Dustin Penner, were held to 21 shots on goal, only two in the third period.

The Blackhawks not only took a three-games-to-one series lead; they also snapped the Kings’ franchise-records for most consecutive home wins in the playoffs (nine) and overall (15). Chicago can clinch its 12th Stanley Cup Final berth by defeating Los Angeles at home on Saturday evening, on NBC.

TWEET OF THE DAY

–    Patrick Kane, after he tapped in the 2-2 goal off the goalline that would have been teammate Bryan Bickell’s second of the game (and ninth of the postseason)

LINK

  • Jaromir Jagr demands perfection in the gym [CBC]
  • Today’s brew from Boston mixes beers with biers [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
  • Sushi, the new pre-game wonder meal [Globe and Mail]
  • Bruins the modern-day version of the Broad Street Bullies [The Province]
  • Sidney Crosby’s sister carving out her own hockey path in goal [Canadian Press]

NHL, NHLPA agree on protocols to resume season

1 Comment

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed Sunday on protocols to resume the season, a major step toward the return of hockey this summer.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press there was an agreement on protocols for training camps and games and the sides are still negotiating an extension of the collective bargaining agreement, which is crucial to the process.

A person with knowledge of the situation said the return-to-play protocols would only go into effect if each side votes to approve the full package of the CBA extension and return-to-play agreement. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because CBA talks are still ongoing.

To complete a return, two-thirds of the league’s board of governors and majorities of the players’ executive committee and full membership must vote in favor.

If everything is ratified, it will end a pandemic-forced shutdown that began in mid-March. Games would resume in late July or early August with 24 teams taking part in an expanded playoffs, finishing with the Stanley Cup being awarded in October.

The agreement was first reported by TSN.

The 47 pages of protocols outline the health and safety measures the league and players agreed to after several weeks of negotiations. Any player has until 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday to notify his team if he’s choosing to opt out of participating in training camp and games.

For those playing, each team is limited to 30 skaters and an unlimited amount of goaltenders for camp and total roster of up to 31 players for games. Each team is limited to 52 personnel in its game city, a group that must include two trainers, a doctor and compliance officer in addition players, coaches and management.

They are expected to be quarantined from the general public during play at least for the qualifying and first two traditional playoff rounds. Family members will be permitted to join when play is moved to one city for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.

All team and league employees plus hotel, restaurant and arena staff coming in contact with players will be tested daily in the two ”hub” cities.

One player’s positive coronavirus test result is not expected to shut down play entirely. The league has said it would isolate any player or staff member who tests positive, acknowledging an outbreak would threaten the remainder of the season.

”The players will be pretty well-protected from being exposed,” Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said during a conference call in June. ”It’s going to be a completely different way for you all and us watching hockey and being around a team because players will be really well protected throughout the process.”

The protocols include a provision for Commissioner Gary Bettman in consultation with NHLPA executive director Don Fehr to postpone, delay or cancel games in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Assuming the protocols are approved, teams are expected to open training camps July 13 before traveling to the two hub cities for games. Players have been able to skate and train off-ice in voluntary, small-group workouts since June 8 – nearly three months after hockey was halted March 12 with 189 regular-season games remaining.

Returning for the playoffs is seen as a stirring victory for the NHL, which like other top leagues faced the prospect of losing millions more without the television revenue tied to the postseason. There were deep concerns about canceling the rest of the season and word of positive tests didn’t help: 26 players since June 8, in addition to almost a dozen before that.

Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk called the positive test results ”eye-opening” but expected. A few players expressed concerns in recent weeks about the uncertainty surrounding a return.

”We have obviously a unique situation right now,” Montreal goaltender Carey Price said. ”The NHL and the NHLPA are trying to make the best of a very difficult situation. Moving forward I’d like to play, but we have a lot of questions that need to be answered and a lot of scenarios that need to be covered.”

If the protocols and an CBA extension cover those scenarios for enough owners and players, there will be a path forward to hand out the Stanley Cup. Only twice since 1893 has the Cup not been awarded: in 1919, when the final couldn’t be completed because of the Spanish flu pandemic, and 2005 when the season was wiped out by a lockout.

Seven hockey players suspended in Belarus match-fixing case

2 Comments

ZURICH — Seven ice hockey players have been suspended during an investigation into match-fixing in the Belarus league.

The players — five from Belarus and two from Russia — told a domestic investigation they were paid to help arrange the outcome of a game in November, the International Ice Hockey Federation said on Friday.

“During the investigation, each of the players also admitted that they had agreed to exert an unlawful influence on the outcome of the game in exchange for illegal remuneration,” the governing body said in a statement.

The IIHF said its disciplinary board had taken over the case “for further review and sanctioning.”

The case involves Dynamo Molodechno’ losing to Mogilyov 6-5 in a Belarus Extraliga game.

The players have been suspended from taking part in any competition organized by the IIHF or its member federations.

PHT Morning Skate: NHL vs. viruses; Flat salary cap pain = Avs’ gain?

1 Comment

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit for the PHT Morning Skate? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Lafreniere, COVID-19 hockey concerns, and how Avs may benefit from a flat salary cap

• Rank Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen among those expressing some misgivings about playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. [TSN]

• Breaking: Alexis Lafreniere is not a defenseman. In all seriousness, a look at some Maple Leafs possibilities … which might be complicated at No. 1 because of that positional point. Maybe? [Pension Plan Puppets]

• Speaking of those Maple Leafs, Buds fans are not pleased about the idea of a possible flat, $81.5M salary cap. There are teams who might take advantage of this situation, though. Here’s why the Avalanche could be one of those teams. [Mile High Hockey]

• A look back at the NHL’s “rivalries” with viruses. Does the history of the NHL’s dealing with such issues — even the Mumps — be a cause for concern amid COVID-19 outbreaks? [Arctic Ice Hockey]

• Earlier this week, PHT selected the best landing spots for Alexis Lafreniere. What about getting even more specific? Andrew Berkshire shared his picks for some of the lines that would benefit most from adding the consensus No. 1 pick to their left side. [Sportsnet]

Other hockey links

• Sean Gentille put together an oral history for the Jean Claude Van Damme masterpiece “Sudden Death.” If you haven’t heard of the candidate for “so-bad-it’s-good” designation, how about the elevator pitch: “Die Hard at a hockey game.” [The Athletic (sub required)]

• On face value, this article focuses most on Rudy Gobert and Novak Djokovic and athletes feeling invulnerable to COVID-19. But it’s a really good read for hockey fans, players, and executives as cautionary tales with a return-to-play picking up steam. [The Score]

• Joe Pelletier of Greatest Hockey Legends wonders why the bar is set so high for goalies to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Not an awful point when you consider that they play the most important position in the sport, and all. I wouldn’t mind Ron Hextall making a future cut, to name just one worthy goalie. [Greatest Hockey Legends]

• Five crossovers between hockey and Todd McFarlane. Yes, the “Spawn” guy. [PuckJunk]

• Taking a run at putting together the Sabres’ roster during the upcoming offseason. It gets elaborate, including potential trades. Yes, this scenario includes trading away Rasmus Ristolainen. Don’t they all? [Die by the Blade]

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.

Our Line Starts podcast: NHL, NHLPA nearing agreement; hub cities, Olympics, CBA

Leave a comment

Liam McHugh, Keith Jones, and Patrick Sharp react to the reports that the NHL and NHLPA are nearing the completion of a massive agreement that would not only cover this year’s Return to Play protocols, but also serve as an extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The guys discuss Edmonton and Toronto emerging as hub city favorites, as well as what it would mean for the NHL to return to the Olympics. Plus, a breakdown of the Qualifying Round series in both conferences.

Start-4:45 Edmonton, Toronto new hub city frontrunners
4:45-8:45 NHL, NHLPA nearing CBA extension, including Olympic participation
8:45-13:00 Other return to play details
14:00-23:00 Eastern Conference Qualifying Round preview
23:50-End Western Conference Qualifying Round preview

Where else you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports