The Wraparound: Maple Leafs, Oilers try to rewrite their story

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.

• Check in with all of Friday’s NHL Stanley Cup playoff action with the NHL Rink Wrap right here

• The Rangers and Stars both forced Game 7s on Sunday with wins Friday night.

• It’s been 26 years but the Panthers are finally heading to the Second Round of the playoffs. 

Every Game 7 is a big game no matter the teams and no matter the round. But two of these Game 7s on Saturday night seem especially big for what they will mean to two franchises that have mostly been punchlines, and two of the NHL’s biggest megastars in Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.

They are two of the most dynamic players in the league.

McDavid is the league’s most dominant overall offensive force. Matthews is currently the league’s top goal-scorer. Collectively they have won one playoff series in their careers. That lack of playoff success is not necessarily about them, but more so the teams and organizations around them. This current Maple Leafs core has lost five consecutive opening round series (including a qualifying round in the bubble against Columbus), including two where they had chances to close out the series. After dropping Thursday’s Game 6 against Tampa Bay they have now lost eight consecutive games in which they could close out a series, while the organization has still not won a playoff series since the 2004 playoffs. This team cannot go through a sixth consecutive First Round exit with this core and not expect to avoid major changes. If nothing else, the jokes, criticism, and skepticism about how good they actually are will continue.

Toronto did everything they possibly could on Thursday in terms of playing the right way but still managed to lose in unbelievable fashion. They have to change their narrative. If they can overcome Thursday’s loss and beat the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champions in a Game 7 it would go a long way toward doing that. It might actually be the breakthrough this core needs to actually become a serious Stanley Cup contender.

But for all of Toronto’s flaws and playoff shortcomings, they at least consistently get there.

That is not always the case for McDavid and the Oilers. In seven years of the McDavid-Leon Draisaitl era this is only the fourth time they have actually qualified for the playoffs, and that includes the 2020 bubble in which they made the expanded field (and then lost to a bad Chicago team in the qualifying round). Given that the Oilers have had two of the games best offensive players, each of them an MVP, and have failed to even consistently put a playoff team around them is a massive disappointment. The depth scoring has been consistently bad, the defense has been lacking, and they have struggled to find goaltending, while not showing much urgency in fixing any of those flaws while McDavid and Draisaitl are still in their prime years.

What makes the Oilers’ lack of success so frustrating is that when they do get to the playoffs they are not really losing to powerhouse teams or struggling to compete with Stanley Cup contenders. In 2020 they lost three out of four games in the qualifying round to a Chicago Blackhawks team that ranked 23rd in the league standings and only made it to the postseason due to the expanded playoffs. That Chicago team has been one of the league’s absolute worst teams the past four years. A year ago they got swept in four games against a mediocre Winnipeg Jets team that ended up missing the playoffs entirely this season. Now they find themselves in a Game 7 against a rebuilding Los Angeles Kings team that few people expected to even have a chance of making the playoffs. That Kings team also happens to be playing without its top defenseman (Drew Doughty) and one of its top wingers (Viktor Arvidsson). Losing this series, against that team, after losing the previous two series with McDavid and Draisaitl would be brutal for the front office.

These two teams have a chance to change their narratives on the same night. A win at least gives them something to cling onto and build on, both this season and the future. But a loss is just more of the same that is simply not good enough.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

NHL PLAYOFF GAMES TODAY

Game 7: Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes, 4:30 p.m. ET — ESPN, SN360, SNE, SNW, SNP, TVAS (Series tied 3-3): It is kind of shocking this series is even at this point given the way it started and the way the regular season series went. Through their first five head-to-head meetings this season the Hurricanes were 5-0 against the Bruins and had outscored them by a 26-4 margin. In the four games since? The Bruins are 3-1 with a 15-11 goals advantage and are coming off of a dominant, spectacular Game 6 performance on Thursday. Carolina has the home ice, but all bets are off in a Game 7 situation. Carolina is supposed to be one of the top Cup contenders in the NHL while Boston is the team on the downswing (in theory), so you have to assume all of the pressure is on Carolina here.

Game 7: Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. ET — TNT, CBC, SN, TVAS (Series tied 3-3): The Lightning are looking to keep their quest for back-to-back-to-back championships going with a Game 7 on the road in Toronto. The Maple Leafs are looking to advance to the Second Round for the first time in 18 years and snap an eight-game losing streak with chance to win a series. If Toronto wins this game the narrative around the franchise and this core group of players starts to change. If it does not, it is just more of the same.

Game 7: Los Angeles Kings at Edmonton Oilers, 10 p.m. ET — ESPN, CBC, SN, TVAS (Series tied 3-3): Win or lose this has been a fantastic season for the Kings because this was supposed to be another year in their rebuild. Instead it has been a massive step forward and they are just one win away from making another leap into the Second Round, a situation nobody expected them to be in this season. Especially playing the First Round without Doughty and Arvidsson. All of the pressure, as noted above, is on Edmonton here who desperately needs to take a step of its own here. They are long overdue for progress.

SUNDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 7: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers (Series tied 3-3), 7 p.m. ET — TBS, SNE, SNO, SNP, SN360
Game 7: Dallas Stars at Calgary Flames (Series tied 3-3), 9:30 p.m. ET — ESPN2, SN, TVAS

PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning

Hurricanes vs. Bruins
• Penguins vs. Rangers
Oilers vs. Kings
Flames vs. Stars

First Round, Stanley Cup predictions
Why your team will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup

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    Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

    That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there.

    Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

    Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

    It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

    Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

    And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

    Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”

    WELCOME HOME, LU

    Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

    In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

    He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

    Luongo, who was regaled by “Luuuuu” chants from the Florida fans all night, was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

    “You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

    Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

    Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design depicted his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. They were a gift from CCM for his making the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    “I’d never put the pads on since I retired,” Luongo said. “First time I put them on was this week. Felt pretty good.”

    He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night. But if there’s more alumni games, Luongo suggested he might jump back into the net.

    “It back some good memories tonight to be in the blue paint, hearing the chants,” Luongo said. “Maybe one day we’ll hear them again.”

    REMEMBERING JIMMY

    Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

    Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

    Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

    Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.

    ANTHEM POISE

    “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

    Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

    And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.

    SLAP SHOTS

    Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.

    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.