Boone Jenner

The Playoff Buzzer: Rask dominates for Bruins; MacKinnon keeps scoring for Avs

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  • The goalies were the stars for Boston and Colorado as they helped their teams tie their Round 2 series’.
  • Boston’s top-line comes through in a big way against Columbus.
  • Nathan MacKinnon is unstoppable right now offensively. 

Boston Bruins 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 1 (Series Tied 2-2)

It was the Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask show for the Bruins as they tied their Round 2 series with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Bergeron scored two goals while Rask stopped 39 shots in the 4-1 win. David Pastrnak and Sean Kuraly also scored goals for the Bruins in what was their most complete game of the series so far.

Colorado Avalanche 3, San Jose Sharks 0 (Series Tied 2-2)

The Avalanche are not going away. After stunning the No. 1 seed Calgary Flames in Round 1, the Avalanche now find themselves tied with the second-best regular season team in the Western Conference four games into their Round 2 series. Philipp Grubauer shined for the Avalanche on Thursday while Nathan MacKinnon continued to play like the superstar that he is, making a noticeable impact every single time he was on the ice.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins. On a night where all of the Bruins’ best players came through, Rask was the best of them all. He stopped 39 out of 40 shots including a penalty shot and a handful of shorthanded opportunities for the Blue Jackets. He was the difference in the game and bailed his teammates out on more than one occasion. He would have had a shutout had it not been for a missed call on a puck into the spectator netting.

2. Philipp Grubauer, Colorado Avalanche. Grubauer has been great for the Avalanche the entire postseason and played his best game yet on Thursday night, stopping all 32 shots he faced to record his first ever postseason shutout. He is now up to a .929 save percentage for the playoffs and has been a huge part of the Avalanche’s surprising run.

3. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins. The Bruins needed their best players to shine in Game 4, and they all did. Bergeron came through in a big way with a pair of goals, both on the power play, to help spark the team’s offense. Bruce Cassidy reunited his top line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak at the start and they quickly made an impact with two goals in the first seven minutes.

Highlights of the Night

Rask’s biggest save of the night came early in the first period when he turned aside Boone Jenner on a penalty shot.

Nathan MacKinnon just keeps on producing, extending his point streak and scoring his sixth goal of the playoffs to break a scoreless tie in the second period.

It has been a tough stretch for Pastrnak, but he helped get the Bruins rolling on Thursday night with a big goal for both him and the team.

Factoids

  • Grubauer is the first German-born goalie in NHL history to record a shutout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the second of German nationality to do so (Olaf Kolzig is the first). [NHL PR]
  • MacKinnon’s point streak has now reached eight postseason games, tying him for the third-longest streak in Avalanche history. [NHL PR]
  • Ohio native Sean Kuraly scored against his hometown team on Thursday night when he gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead midway through the third period. [NHL PR]

Friday’s schedule

Game 4: New York Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN (CAR Leads 3-0) (Live Stream)
Game 5: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Series Tied 2-2) (Live Stream)

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 win wild Game 4, even series with Blue Jackets

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The Boston Bruins needed their best players to shine in Game 4 on Thursday night, and they did exactly that.

Because of that performance the Bruins were able to even their Round 2 series with the Columbus Blue Jackets at two games apiece thanks to a 4-1 win that was, at times, pretty chaotic.

Let’s take a quick look at everything that unfolded at Nationwide Arena.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

We need to start with the Bruins’ top line as it was finally able to get going after a quiet start to the series. The Bruins reunited the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak for this game and that trio combined for three of their four goals. Pastrnak got things started just 3:33 into the game to give the Bruins the lead, which was followed by Bergeron adding a power play goal just five minutes later to extend the lead. Bergeron would score another power play goal late in the third period to put the game away.

While the stars at the top were doing their job to jumpstart the offense, starting goalie Tuukka Rask was absolutely spectacular in net stopping 39 of the 40 shots he faced on the night.

That includes a Boone Jenner penalty shot just six minutes into the game that could have tied the score at one with the Bruins on the power play.

It would not be be the only shorthanded opportunity Rask would have to stop on the night as the Bruins gave up chances all night on the man-advantage for much of the night (at least five of them, almost all of which were by Jenner).

Had it not been for the play of Rask this game could have easily gone in a different direction, or at least been a lot closer on the scoreboard at the end.

The only goal he allowed was a controversial one that was the result of Artemi Panarin scoring after the puck hit the protective netting behind the Bruins goal, which was missed by all four on-ice officials.

Along with the emergence of the Bruins’ top line, a penalty shot, countless shorthanded chances, and a controversial goal, there was also another controversial hit in the series as Columbus’ Dean Kukan was given a two-minute minor for this hit to the head of Bruins forward David Backes.

Backes was down for a few moments and exited the game for a while before ultimately returning. It is a play the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will almost certainly look at, but given the standard that has been established this postseason it may not be enough to reach the level of supplemental discipline.

It was an eventful night in what has been a ridiculously close series through the first four games. Now it all comes down to which team can win two of the next three for a chance to go to the Eastern Conference Final.

Game 5 of Bruins-Blue Jackets is Saturday at 7:15 ET on NBC.

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Bruins’ special teams nothing special; Dzingel disappointment?

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

Here’s the NBC Sports Stanley Cup playoff update for May 2

• The Bruins’ special teams have been anything but. (Bruins Daily)

• Is Ryan Dzingel a disappointment? (The Cannon)

• Game 3 may have been Boone Jenner‘s finest for Columbus. (The Point)

• Pavelski FaceTimed team after Game 3, set to begin skating soon. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

Logan Couture is proving why he’s one of the best playoff performers of his generation. (The Hockey News)

• Avs lament ‘boneheaded’ Game 3 decisions. (NHL.com)

• Rotoworld has their NHL Mock Draft 1.0 up. (Rotoworld)

• It’s Red Wings or bust for Pavel Datsyuk if he returns to the NHL. (MLive)

• Widow of former NHLer Todd Ewen files lawsuit against league. (TSN)

• Oilers taking steps to quell fan angst. (Edmonton Journal)

• Jason Botchford, popular Vancouver sportswriter, dead at 48. (The Province)

• Jack Hughes is going to World Hockey Championships. He’s 17. (ESPN)

• A nice guide Kyle Dubas can follow to fix his defense. (Sportsnet)

• It’s time to trade Evgeni Malkin. (Yahoo Sports)

• Is it time for the Nashville Predators to deal a d-man? (On the Forecheck)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blue Jackets continue to shut down Bruins’ best, take 2-1 series lead

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We’ve learned a lot about these Columbus Blue Jackets as their foray into the Stanley Cup Playoffs has worn on.

They’ve proven resilient and relentless, with solid goaltending and no-quit attitude that’s served them more than well. And most of those traits have become trends as they navigate their way through Round 2 against the Boston Bruins, a series they now lead 2-1 after a 2-1 win in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series on Tuesday night.

It’s all noticeable in the on-ice product. Columbus grinds teams down and takes advantage of its opportunities. But perhaps it’s what you can’t see over the first two rounds of the playoffs that has been the most eye-opening.

A quick glance at the scoresheet through three games sees some odd exclusions.

Brad Marchand, for instance, is a 100-point player in the regular season that has no points in the series’ three games. Patrice Bergeron, a point-per-game player, has laid the same goose egg. And gifted goal-scorer David Pastrnak has a single goal, one that came off his skate rather than his stick.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

A blueprint to exclude the big stars on Boston’s bench from being posted on the scoreboard has worked incredibly well, just as it did in Round 1.=

The Tampa Bay Lightning had three 40 goals scorers, including a player named Nikita Kucherov who led the NHL in points by a large margin. The Blue Jackets held Kucherov to just two assists in the first-round sweep. Stamkos had a goal and an assist. Brayden Point was held to just one goal.

See?

It’s remarkable how well Columbus has done to shut down some of the NHL’s best players. And then they apply the same force on the rest of the nine forwards on the ice. Boston has been held to eight goals now, and they have to rely on secondary scoring. When that well runs dry (and it did in Game 3) then nothing can be done.

And Columbus just finds a way.

Matt Duchene has five goals now in these playoffs, and has become Mr. Clutch (he scored the overtime winner in Game 2) with his second straight game-winning goal. Boone Jenner‘s first of the playoffs opened the scoring in the first period.

Boston’s lone goal in the game came on a weird play.

Rule 38.4 (xi) had to be called up to count Jake DeBrusk‘s goal to make it 2-1 on what was deemed a continuous play, despite the whistle from the referee blowing.

The NHL’s Situation room ruled that the play was unaffected by the whistle.

“The video review process shall be permitted to assist the Referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals… include situations whereby the Referee stops play or is in the process of stopping the play because he has lost sight of the puck and it is subsequently determined by video review that the puck crosses (or has crossed) the goal line and enters the net as the culmination of a continuous play where the result was unaffected by the whistle (i.e., the timing of the whistle was irrelevant to the puck entering the net at the end of a continuous play).”

DeBrusk’s goal was as close as the Bruins would come.

Sergei Bobrovsky put on an incredible performance with 36 saves, including several of the 10-bell variety. Whether he’s playing for an even bigger raise or he’s just put those past playoff demons to rest, he’s coming up in the clutch for Columbus and it’s fun to watch (especially when he’s doing Dominik Hasek things).

Game 4 goes at 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday on NBCSN (Stream live).


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Wednesday Night Hockey: Nikita Kucherov is a master of deception

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Nikita Kucherov had three options. Carter Hutton had no chance.

The Tampa Bay Lightning superstar could have dished the puck off to Brayden Point on his right or set up Tyler Johnson for a one-timer from the faceoff circle. Instead, the likely winner of the 2019 Art Ross and Hart Trophies did what he does best: wristed a shot by another NHL goaltender using a bit of deception.

Kucherov patiently waited just long enough to use Zach Bogosian as a screen while leaving Johnson available as a dangerous option to his left.

Patience. Awareness. Deception. A killer shot. That’s the essence of Kucherov’s game. He can shoot, and he can pass, and he does it all by keeping opponents unsure of what he’s going to do with the puck, especially skating in one-on-one on a poor goaltender as he prepares his “no-move” shootout move.

“I’ll be honest, he can almost surprise you on a daily basis with some of the plays he makes,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “It’s once every couple of days he makes a play and I’m glancing at one of the assistant coaches like, ‘I hope we got that on tape.’ He just makes plays that most players don’t see. But to watch his growth every single year, and he’s just gotten better and better. It’s a testament to him with what he’s done and how he works.”

Kucherov’s year-by-year improvement has come to this: 117 points with nine games remaining this season. His previous career high in points was 100, which he reached last season. He scored 40 goals during in 2016-17 and has a good chance at passing that mark as he’s scored 35 through 73 games this season.

His scoring prowess is something this league has not seen in a long time. Kucherov is the first NHL player to reach 115 points since Sidney Crosby’s 120 during the 2006-07 season. Helping hit that number has been his six four-point games this season.

Kucherov’s ascension to elite superstar status has been helped by his off-ice work ethic. The inside of his two-car garage is taken up by synthetic ice. It’s a place he’s able to go during his down time or even after a game to hone his skills. There might work with weighted pucks, some shooting to sharpen his accuracy, or tightening up his stick-handling. It could have been a winning night for the Lightning, but if he’s not satisfied with how he played you’ll find him there. It’s also not a rare sight to see him inside the dressing room stickhandling with a ball. There’s always room for improvement, right?

Everything we see on the ice from Kucherov is connected to what he does off of it.

“People don’t understand how hard he works away from the rink,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. “Like, it’s all hockey. He’ll text me the night before a game if there is a game going on and be like, ‘Did you see that?’ or ‘Did you see this guy’s move?’ or ‘Did you see that goal?’ or ‘Did you see how many minutes this guy played tonight?’ He just loves hockey so much.”

***

It’s not just Kucherov’s ability to shoot that makes him so dangerous. His vision allows him to create as well, which explains his 260 assists since 2014-15, placing him tied for sixth in the league over that span. In fact, if you take away his 35 goals this season, he would be tied for ninth in NHL scoring.

Kucherov’s 82 helpers are the most since Henrik Sedin’s 83 in 2009-10. He’s also only the fourth different player to reach the 80-assist mark in a season since 1999-00 (Joe Thornton did it twice).

Knowing not just where his teammates are on the ice but also opponents is what makes Kucherov a dangerous playmaker. Always one for wanting to be unpredictable, his vision allows him to survey the ice and read the play so well in order to create scoring chances.

Take for example this Stamkos goal from last season. Kucherov could have easily taken not one, but two different one-timers on a single power play shift, but both times he saw an opening in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ penalty kill setup that he felt he could exploit. They were both high-risk, cross-ice passes to Stamkos, with the second opportunity leading to a goal.

But with great risk comes great reward.

On the first pass, Kucherov uses his patented deception. He fakes the one-timer, freezing the Blue Jackets long enough to thread a seam to Stamkos. The second one, through a bit of a mad scramble, he catches Zach Werenski, who isn’t 100 percent sure where the puck is, flat-footed, and with Seth Jones going for the shot block and Boone Jenner still getting back to his feet, a slot opens up to find Stamkos again for the goal.

Opponents can try and read Kucherov’s body as he possesses the puck, but that isn’t going to give them an edge in trying to take it away. More often than not when you think you’ve got him closed up, he’ll find an outlet.

***

The great ones never rest on what they’ve already achieved. Kucherov’s point totals have increased every season since he broke into the NHL, including his back-to-back 100-point seasons. He’s averaged 35 goals a year since 2014-15 and will very likely hit the 40-goal mark for the second time in his career within the next three weeks.

Kucherov, who has an eight-year, $76M extension kicking in next season, doesn’t turn 26 until June. He’s only improving as the years go on and shows no signs of being satisfied.

“The one thing about Kuch, when he got to the NHL he didn’t sit down and say, ‘OK, exhale, I made it,'” said Cooper. “He was one of those guys that now the work’s just beginning, and he’s been putting it in ever since that day.”

“When you have the skillset he has, his hockey mind is so elite, his physical skills and all that is catching up. The improvement you see year after year after year is he just keeps working at it; and not only on the ice but studying the game and where guys should be and how they should play and how other teams play you. 

“He’s educated himself on what other teams do and defensemen and all the other things. This is the product you get.”

John Forslund (play-by-play), U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk (analyst), and Emmy Award-winner Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Bob McKenzie.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.