News and notes: How are the Bruins stopping Chicago’s power play?

6 Comments

News and notes entering Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Final showdown — will Boston continue to stymie the power play?

Game 4: Chicago Blackhawks at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (watch on NBC and live online) – Bruins lead series, 2-1

In Game 3, Daniel Paille and Patrice Bergeron scored second-period goals and Tuukka Rask stopped all 28 Blackhawks shots he faced in a 2-0 Bruins win. Tonight, the Bruins will look to win their eighth straight game at TD Garden – tying a franchise record for consecutive home wins in a single postseason (1990) – and take a three-games-to-one series lead to Chicago with the chance to clinch the Cup.

The Bruins, who lead a Stanley Cup Final series for the first time since 1974, when they won Game 1 vs. the Philadelphia Flyers (note: their only series “lead” in 2011 came after clinching the Cup in Game 7), look like the better side heading into Game 4. Since the first intermission of Game 2, Rask (49 straight saves) and company have shut out the Blackhawks, and the new third line of Daniel Paille (two game-winning goals) – Chris Kelly (one goal, one assist) – Tyler Seguin (two assists) has found a scoring touch that had been lacking for the most part this postseason. Patrice Bergeron scored his second goal of the series (both of which have been power-play goals) in Game 3 and raised his faceoff percentage to 69.7% (69-of-99) this series.

Boston’s penalty kill, which has not skipped a beat since PK standout Gregory Campbell was lost for the season with a broken fibula in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, has stopped all 11 Chicago power plays, extending its kill streak to 27 and raising its postseason success rate to 88.9%. While playing with the man disadvantage for almost a full period (18:54) this series, the B’s have as many blocked shots (eight, led by Dennis Seidenberg, with four) during that time as shots on goal allowed.

The Blackhawks did not lose three straight games during their Presidents’ Trophy-winning campaign. Now, they hope to avoid losing three straight for the second time in their last three playoff series. Marian Hossa, tied for the team lead with 15 points, is expected to play after leaving pre-game warmups and being scratched prior to Game 3. Head coach Joel Quenneville refused to specify the nature or cause of Hossa’s injury, other than affirming that it was an upper-body injury. (TSN later reported that his ailment is neck-related.)

With Hossa out, Quenneville tried several different power-play combinations – only Michal Handzus and Hossa’s replacement, Ben Smith, did not see any power-play time – but none were able to break through. Six Blackhawks were on the ice for four or more minutes of 5-on-4 hockey, but only three had a shot on goal.

Player

Power-play time on ice

Shots on goal

Goals

Michal Rozsival

4:52

0

0

Duncan Keith

4:29

0

0

Patrick Kane

4:28

0

0

Andrew Shaw

4:26

1

0

Patrick Sharp

4:23

2

0

Jonathan Toews

4:19

1

0

DID YOU KNOW?

Two nights after becoming the fifth-highest scorer in NHL postseason history (197 points), Bruins forward Jaromir Jagr will become the 21st player (19 skaters, 2 goaltenders) to appear in 200 playoff games. It will be only his 14th Cup Final game, fewest among the group.

GARDEN GREATNESS

Since Patrice Bergeron scored the game-tying goal (4-4) at 19:09 of the third period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs. Toronto, the Bruins have been dominant at home. Here are some numbers which illustrate their dominance at TD Garden:

  • Outscored opponents (TOR, NYR, PIT, CHI) by a 17-6 margin
    • 4 goals for, 0 goals against since 8:51 of second period in Game 3 of Eastern Conference Final
  • Trailed for 15:50 of 427:55 (3.7%)
    • Trend: have not trailed since 3:48 of second period in Game 5 of Eastern Conference Semifinals
  • Tuukka Rask: 0.84 GAA (6 goals allowed), saved 205-of-211 (.972) shots, 2 shutouts
    • Rask trend: 87 straight saves since 8:51 of second period in Game 3 of Eastern Conference Final
  • Patrice Bergeron: 3 goals (2 OT-GWG), 4 assists, 97-of-158 (61.4%) on faceoffs
    • Bergeron trend: 41-of-54 (75.9%) on faceoffs since Game 4 of Eastern Conference Final
  • Penalty kill: 23-for-24 (95.8%)
    • PK trend: 15 consecutive kills since Game 5 of Eastern Conference Semifinals

DID YOU KNOW?

Since the Stanley Cup Final went to a best-of-seven format in 1939, teams that won Game 3 after splitting the first two contests won the Cup 21 of 25 times. Of those 25 teams, 12 had the chance to extend their series lead to three-games-to-one at home, and six – including the last three since 1989 – lost. The last team to win Game 4 at home while up two-games-to-one was the 1986 Montreal Canadiens.

Year Team Opponent Game 4 result Series result
2004 Calgary Flames Tampa Bay Lightning L, 1-0 Lost in 7
1991 Minnesota North Stars Pittsburgh Penguins L, 5-3 Lost in 6
1989 Montreal Canadiens Calgary Flames L, 4-2 Lost in 6
1986 Montreal Canadiens Calgary Flames W, 1-0 Won in 5

LINKS

  • Zdeno Chara stands tall for Bruins when they need him most [National Post]
  • Brad Marchand calls Andrew Shaw a “kitty cat” after Game 3 scrum [NESN]
  • Bruins are the team you love to love [Boston Globe]
  • Joel Quenneville refuses to tip hand on Marian Hossa injury [SportsNet]
  • Dave Bolland realizes he can’t three-peat in Game 4 [Chicago Sun-Times]

Sharks storm back, stun Predators with late rally

1 Comment

Tuesday’s game in Nashville seemed like it could have been a potential Western Conference Final preview between the San Jose Sharks and Predators, and for 50 minutes it looked like the Predators were going to continue to assert their dominance as the elite team in the conference.

Maybe they still are and ultimately still will be, but on this particular night everything fell apart for them in the blink of an eye as they let two points slip away in the standings.

The Sharks scored three consecutive goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation, including two less than 40 seconds apart to erase a two-goal deficit, to come back for a stunning 5-4 win.

Brent Burns‘ goal with just 2:52 to play proved to be the game-winner, and it was made possible thanks to quick goals from Brendan Dillon and Joe Pavelski just a few minutes earlier to tie the game.

Burns’ goal can be seen in the video above.

Here are the two goals to tie the game.

After acquiring Erik Karlsson over the summer and re-signing Evander Kane to a long-term contract extension the Sharks, a team that was already good enough to make the second-round of the playoffs a year ago, entered the season as one of the hot picks to win the Western Conference this season and compete for the Stanley Cup.

Through their first eight games entering play on Tuesday they had been a little inconsistent but it seems they may be starting to hit their stride a little bit. The win in Nashville is their third in a row and comes on the road against one of the league’s best teams. After winning the Western Conference two years ago, then taking the Presidents’ Trophy a year ago as the NHL’s best team during the regular season, the Predators stormed out of the gate again this season with wins in seven of their first eight games, and looking particularly dominant in the process.

Tuesday’s game was a great test for both teams, and all they did was show that they are two evenly matched, great rosters that are going to have a chance to play very far into the spring.

If this game was any preview of what is to come it would be one heck of a best-of-seven series (if it happens).

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Bruins rookie Vaakanainen concussed by Borowiecki; Discipline coming?

2 Comments

Already playing without a couple of defenders (Torey Krug, Kevan Miller) the Boston Bruins lost another one on Tuesday night when rookie Urho Vaakanainen, playing in just his second NHL game, had to leave their game against the Ottawa Senators after he was elbowed in the face by Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki during a scramble around the front of the Ottawa net.

The Bruins later announced that Vaakanainen has already been diagnosed with a concussion.

You can see the play in the video above.

He was not penalized on the play, but that is not a good look for Borowieckiy because you can clearly see him look at Vaakanainen as he skates in and deliberately raise his elbow to hit him in the head.

I get that the front of the net is a tough area, but this isn’t 1980 anymore and that type of needless play should not be looked at as “okay” just because there is a scramble.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will almost certainly review that play and he could be be facing some discipline for it. If the NHL determines it is a play worthy of discipline that could be bad news for Borowiecki because he has been suspended once before and the player on the receiving end of his hit was injured. Those two things always factor into the punishment.

Vaakanainen was the selected by the Bruins in the first-round of the 2017 draft with the No. 18 overall pick.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Winning streaks on the line as Predators host Sharks

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the San Jose Sharks and the Nashville Predators at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

Pekka Rinne is on injured reserved, opening the door for Juuse Saros to take the reins as the starting goalie for the Predators. When Nashville hosts the Sharks on Tuesday, it’ll be the first time that the 23-year-old netminder will have started consecutive games in his young NHL career.

Saros has 46 starts in his career, and working with Rinne for the past couple of seasons has provided him plenty of confidence to handle an extended workload when called up.

“Juuse is very calm,” said Predators head coach Peter Laviolette via the Tennessean. “He’s got a great guy to sit next to him in the room in Pekka. Approaches life the same way. They lead with their work ethic.”

As the Predators look to extend their five-game winning streak, they’ll face a Sharks team have won two in a row and scored nine goals over their last two games. Logan Couture has scored four of those nine goals and is one of the bevy of weapons that head coach Peter DeBoer can deploy every night.

[Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

WHAT: San Jose Sharks at Nashville Predators
WHERE: Bridgestone Arena
WHEN: Tuesday, October 23rd, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVESTREAM: You can watch the Sharks-Predators stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

SHARKS
Evander KaneJoe PavelskiKevin Labanc
Tomas Hertl – Logan Couture – Timo Meier
Marcus SorensenAntti SuomelaJoonas Donskoi
Barclay GoodrowRourke ChartierMelker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard VlasicErik Karlsson
Joakim RyanBrent Burns
Brenden DillonJustin Braun

Starting goalie: Martin Jones

[WATCH LIVE – 8 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

PREDATORS
Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson
Kevin FialaKyle TurrisCraig Smith
Calle JarnkrokNick BoninoRyan Hartman
Zac RinaldoColton SissonsFrederick Gaudreau

Roman JosiRyan Ellis
Mattias EkholmP.K. Subban
Dan HamhuisYannick Weber

Starting goalie: Juuse Saros

MORE: Rusev and Lana turn Predators stars into WWE superstars

Galchenyuk could really tie Coyotes’ offense together

Getty
1 Comment

Seth Jones is not the only returning player worth watching as the Columbus Blue Jackets take on the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night.

While the Blue Jackets will see their Norris-caliber defenseman make his season debut, Alex Galchenyuk will finally play his first regular-season game for the Coyotes.

Late in the preseason, Galchenyuk suffered a lower-body injury that sidelined him on a week-to-week basis, forcing the slick scorer to miss Arizona’s first seven games. The concern was that, once again, the Coyotes would begin the season on a down note. With a 2-5-0 record and, somehow, just 11 goals scored through seven games, such concerns ended up being justified.

Injecting Galchenyuk’s scoring ability into that lineup could mean a big boost.

No, he’s not the sort of tide-changing star who would lift Arizona into the scoring stratosphere, but Galchenyuk is a one-time 30-goal scorer, has another 20-goal season on his resume, and has reached 50+ points twice in his career. Not bad for a 24-year-old who will surely enter this season with a chip on his shoulder (and likely a refreshed feeling after exiting a toxic situation in Montreal).

Let’s go over why Galchenyuk’s addition could be big for the Coyotes:

Some help for Keller

Clayton Keller probably feels some empathy for Islanders wunderkind Mathew Barzal, as both have been asked to carry a huge burden of scoring for their teams entering sophomore seasons.

Players of any age can use someone who thinks the game at a higher level like them, and opens up space with smarts, skill, and finishing ability. Such a synthesis is plausible for Keller – Galchenyuk, whether that requires a few shifts or a few games to come to fruition.

With a big body like Lawson Crouse to – ideally – do some of the dirty work, and maybe shovel in some goals in front of the net, this could be a nice little scoring line.

Finishing touch on the power play, and in general

Circling back, the Coyotes created their fair share of chances, even during the early parts of their historically bad start. So far this season, the Coyotes suffer from easily the worst even-strength shooting percentage, connecting on just 2.96-percent of their shots on goal, according to Natural Stat Trick. No other team is under Anaheim’s 4.58-percent mark.

Oh yeah, they haven’t been much luckier on the power play, either, with their 10.5-percent success rate ranking second-worst in the NHL.

Again, Galchenyuk isn’t just going to sprinkle pixie dust all over these problems and make them go away by himself.

Still, his skill adds what could be some crucial finishing touch to a group that needs it at all levels. Galchenyuk has hit nine power-play goals twice in his career, and 30 of his 108 career tallies have come via the man advantage.

Left Wing Lock’s listings have Arizona’s top power-play unit as Galchenyuk, Keller, Derek Stepan, Dylan Strome, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Such a group won’t send the Capitals, Maple Leafs, and other high-end 5-on-4 groups tumbling down the stats leaders, but it could very well make special teams a coin-flip, rather than a disadvantage for the Coyotes.

Demoted to your level of competence

When you get a player back from injury, pieces can fall into more natural places. Even if Galchenyuk isn’t quite a top-line center (a genuine possibility), he might be able to help the Coyotes open up advantages at different levels.

For one thing, Derek Stepan probably makes more sense as a second-line or 1b center.

Stepan probably deserves more respect than he sometimes receives; five of his last six seasons were 50+ points, and he generated nearly a point-per-game the year he missed (ah, the streak-killing menace that was the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season …).

With zero goals and one assist so far this season, Stepan was really fighting it. Maybe he was straining to play above his means? It’s plausible that he’ll return to that 20-ish goal, 50+ point pace with a little less weight on his shoulders.

***

Viewing Galchenyuk as a savior is wrong.

If the Coyotes climb in a big way, it will be as much about finally getting the bounces they haven’t been receiving all that often this season.

Still, consider Galchenyuk as an extra paddle on that pinball machine, possibly moving that random luck in the right direction. At worst, it should be fun to see him create offense alongside a brilliant young forward in Clayton Keller.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.