Josh Anderson

Bruins’ McAvoy suspended for Game 1 against Hurricanes

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Charlie McAvoy‘s hit on Josh Anderson didn’t draw a major penalty in the Boston Bruins’ Game 6 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but it will force McAvoy to sit out Game 1 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Final versus the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.

Here’s the video explanation from the NHL, which labels the check as an illegal check to the head, one that McAvoy could have avoided. Anderson was able to return during the third period of Game 6, and also seemed to share a cordial handshake with McAvoy following Boston’s 3-0 win.

The video gets into the nitty gritty of the hit, noting that McAvoy attempted a hit that would be difficult to execute without making contact with Anderson’s head. The Department of Player Safety also claims that McAvoy elevated to make the hit.

The league also noted that McAvoy hadn’t been fined or suspended during his NHL career before this incident, so that factored into the check drawing a one game suspension, rather than something more severe.

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.

Blue Jackets’ future cloudy after Kekalainen’s gamble falls short

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If you’re looking for a feel-good story about how the Columbus Blue Jackets ignited hockey fandom in a town for the past month, you won’t find it here on this Tuesday in early May.

Fuzzy feelings are fleeting when a team that went all-in, risking future assets and big returns on key pending unrestricted free agents, crashes out of the playoffs in Round 2.

The talk or progress would be a sentiment I could be more bullish on if they weren’t fixing to lose two or three of their stars come the summer.

Yes, the Blue Jackets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. Swept them, no less, in emphatic fashion.

Sure, Columbus battled the Boston Bruins hard, taking them to Game 6 before being unable to solve Tuukka Rask

They showed tremendous tenacity during those two rounds and a sense of having bought into a suffocating style of hockey that stymied one of the best regular-season teams of all-time.

Coming back from a 3-0 deficit in Game 1 against the Lightning will be memorable. As, too, will be the play of Sergei Bobrovsky, who gave the Blue Jackets a chance every night, as did the scoring touches of both Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene, who proved to be crucial pieces that stepped up when the lights shined brightest.

The crowds, the chants, the atmosphere, the cannon — all special while it lasted.

John Tortorella said his team made huge steps forward. True. The exact makeup of the team as of Monday’s Game 6 made huge steps forward over the past month, and there’d be a lot of build on here if it weren’t for this dark cloud that’s also been hovering over the team.

There’d be a reason to be optimistic if every player mentioned above were locked into varying lengths of long-term deals with the organization. The sad reality is they aren’t. And it seems almost certain at this point that they will lose both Panarin and Bobrovsky to free agency, and Duchene could walk to under the same circumstances if he so chooses.

Losing them is, at the very least, a step back, right?

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

General manager Jarmo Kekalainen gambled big here, so much so that he can probably skip his flight to Vancouver for this year’s draft because he won’t play a big part having only a third-round pick and Calgary’s seventh-round choice at the moment. (Not to mention no second- or third-round pick in 2020.)

The only thing that lasts forever in hockey is Stanley Cup banners and the engraving on hockey’s holy grail that goes with it.

Hockey’s a sport where if you’re not first, your last. You can raise feel-good banners, but they become the butt-end of jokes rather than revered pieces of fabric.

When the dust settles in or around July 1, the Blue Jackets could be without their top scorer, their No. 1 goaltender and the man they sold a good acre or two of the farm to get at the NHL trade deadline.

Per CapFriendly, Columbus’ projected cap space heading into next year is in the $27 million range. Can that coerce a No. 1 to sign in free agency if Bobrovsky leaves? Maybe, but the No. 1 goalie pool this year is slim at best.

Can it replace a 27-year-old superstar in Panarin? What about a 28-year-old point-per-game player in Duchene?

Kekalainen’s wand is going to need a full charge to pull off that kind of sorcery. That’s not to say it can’t happen, but it’s a tall order in the highest degree.

Sure, the remaining players can draw on the experiences they had. Is there much to extract from that, however, if three big names are out?

“Next year who knows what’s going to happen?” said Cam Atkinson after Game 6. “Who’s going to be in this locker room?”

There’s a core in Columbus that will remain, however: Atkinson, Seth Jones, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Josh Anderson, and Nick Foligno, who’s a consummate captain.

But you don’t just magically regrow a couple of severed limbs. That takes detailed surgery and an unknown timeframe get back to full strength.

Gambles, however well calculated they may be, are still gambles at the end of the day.

Kekalainen pushed all in and got caught by a better hand.

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

Bruins’ McAvoy to have hearing for Game 6 hit on Anderson

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(UPDATE: McAvoy has been suspended one game.)

When the Boston Bruins host the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, defenseman Charlie McAvoy likely will not be available.

The Bruins blue liner will have a Tuesday hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety following his second period hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson in Game 6.

McAvoy was assessed only a minor penalty on the play due to the fact that the official deemed it an illegal check to the head under Rule 48.1, which only carries either a minor or match penalty with it, not a major or game misconduct.

The Blue Jackets failed to score on the ensuing power play and were eliminated following the 3-0 defeat.

“I thought it was a hockey play,” McAvoy said afterward. “I mean, I put my shoulder into it. When I hit, I do my very best to keep my elbow tucked so I don’t get it out there. I hit with my shoulder. I try to hit with as much power as possible. He’s a bigger guy, it was a hockey play.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

John Tortorella did not divulge what the officials told him regarding the call. The Blue Jackets players were obviously frustrated considering it was 1-0 at the time of the hit and had Kelly Sutherland and Steve Kozari been able to call a five-minute major, that extra power play time could have swung the game.

“It sucks,” said Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno. “Kelly is a good ref. I don’t want to get into it. He had a tough call to make. I just think when your player is injured, it’s an automatic five minutes. … At the end of the day, he probably makes the right call, but at the time you probably want to see it be a five. Then again, we got a two-minute power play and we didn’t make anything of it. We got another power play after that and we didn’t make anything of it.”

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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.

The Playoff Buzzer: Bruins advance; Avalanche survive

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  • The Blue Jackets were able to sweep the Lightning in front of their home fans in Columbus. Now their season is over as they fell in Game 6 against Boston at that same arena. The Bruins move on to face the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.
  • While the East half of Round 3 is set, the West side is still totally unsettled. The Sharks didn’t fall easily on Monday, but the Avalanche grabbed a gutsy OT win to send this series to Game 7.

Bruins 3, Blue Jackets 0 (Boston wins series 4-2)

Charlie McAvoy only receiving a two-minute minor for his hit on Josh Anderson was a big part of the Game 6 storyline, no doubt. But, really, Tuukka Rask strangled any chance for the Blue Jackets to rally around the anger of not getting a call they believed they deserved. David Krejci managed the lone goal of the first 40 minutes of this one, and Sergei Bobrovsky allowed two quick goals in the third period to sap any last-minute drama. Columbus has some things to build on going forward, even with Bobrovsky and others possibly leaving, but the Bruins get the upper hand.

Avalanche 4, Sharks 3 (Series tied 3-3; Game 7 airs at 9 pm. ET on Wednesday on NBCSN [stream here])

This was a fascinating game. The Avs managed leads of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2, yet the Sharks just kept fighting back. When Game 6 went to overtime, there was at least a faint feeling that San Jose was going to stun Colorado in its own building. Instead, Gabriel Landeskog scored the overtime game-winner, forcing a Game 7 in this series. Two unsung heroes loomed large in Game 6, and they follow Rask in the three stars below …

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Tuukka Rask

Rask already turned heads with strong work during the Bruins’ Round 2 series against the Blue Jackets, but Game 6 might count as his best performance yet. While Rask enjoyed a little bit of luck from posts hitting his posts, he was still incredibly sharp for Boston, and thus outrageously frustrating for the Blue Jackets. Rask generated a 39-save shutout to close out Columbus, and the occasionally-criticized goalie is cementing his status as a true difference-maker for a Bruins team eyeing a glorious run.

2. J.T. Compher

Heading into Game 6 for Colorado, Compher had one three-point game to his career, yet he scored two goals and one assist at the most crucial time, with the Avalanche facing down elimination. Check these highlights and decide for yourself: is his assist to Tyson Jost to open scoring the best of Compher’s three points, or was it the 3-2 goal where he showed some pretty impressive hands?

That 3-2 goal sure seemed like it would be the game-winner, except an equally unlikely hero forced the issue for San Jose …

3. Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Again, Vlasic can be a “likely” hero for his work in his own end. And, really, Vlasic was his usual, defensive-defenseman-dynamo self against Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen, his most frequent opponents in Game 6. Yes, Landeskog scored an overtime game-winner, but generally speaking, the Sharks did a great job of limiting that dangerous trio’s chances. Vlasic was a big part of that.

Few would have expected Vlasic to be so prolific offensively, though.

Vlasic scored two goals for the Sharks while firing three SOG, blocking four shots, and managing two takeaways in Game 6. Impressive stuff, even if San Jose couldn’t quite close out Colorado.

Oh, by the way, this is only the second two-goal game of Vlasic’s career, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. Again, it was a rare night.

Factoids

TUESDAY’S GAME 7

Game 7: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues (series tied 3-3; 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN [stream here])

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.

Bruins eliminate Blue Jackets after another Rask masterpiece

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The Columbus Blue Jackets might feel robbed by the refs, but deep down, they have to wonder: “If Charlie McAvoy got a major penalty for that hit on Josh Anderson, would we have beaten Tuukka Rask, anyway?”

Rask already stamped his name on this Round 2 series with great play, yet Game 6 might have been his best work against Columbus yet. Then again, you have some other great options, as Rask has been lights-out lately. Either way, the Finnish goalie was the standout in the Bruins’ 3-0 win in Game 6, allowing Boston to close out the series 4-2.

With a would-be Bruins goal disallowed thanks to a murky goalie interference review, the first period ended with a 0-0 score.

The second period, then, was quite pivotal. That McAvoy hit on Anderson came with 20 seconds remaining, and the questionable call had Anderson shaking his head at officials to start the third. The Blue Jackets were likely shaking their head in disbelief at Rask in general, though, as they were down 1-0 despite generating a 17-5 shots on goal advantage in that second period, and a 27-17 edge through the first 40 minutes. Rask ultimately generated a 39-save shutout in Game 6.

David Krejci didn’t have a ton of chances on Monday, but he made one of his count, scoring a 1-0 stunner that would stand as the game-winning goal. Krejci continues to be a player who probably deserves more credit for his strong work for the Bruins, particularly in producing big numbers during his playoff career.

Columbus couldn’t convert on the power play that resulted from the McAvoy hit, and can’t argue that they lacked any chances overall, going 0-for-4 on the evening.

Amid all of that controversy, Game 6 was mostly very close, at least until the wheels came off. Marcus Johansson scored a 2-0 goal 8:58 into the third period, and David Backes really took the air out of the building in Columbus by making it 3-0 less than two minutes later. As rugged and hard-working as the Blue Jackets have been during this still-quite-remarkable run in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they didn’t manage much of a push once they fell behind by three goals.

With this result, the Bruins advance to a fascinating 2019 Eastern Conference Final series against the Carolina Hurricanes for Round 3. Boston avoids giving Carolina too much of a rest advantage, as the Hurricanes swept the New York Islanders on Friday. The Bruins were pushed to a Game 7 in Round 1, so avoiding John Tortorella’s guaranteed Game 7 in Round 2 is pretty significant. Even if they might need to face the Hurricanes in Game 1 without McAvoy.

One figures that the Blue Jackets feel absolutely gutted, at least looking at the short term on Monday.

Sergei Bobrovsky was fantastic during this series, but he’ll probably have some regrets about the goals allowed in Game 6, at least the two that really destroyed any dream of a comeback in the third period.

Sweeping the mighty Tampa Bay Lightning remains a testament to GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s bold gamble to keep Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin and load up during the trade deadline, yet Columbus still mortgaged most of its 2018 NHL Draft to see things end here. If Bobrovsky and Panarin stick with the plan and leave Columbus, there are also questions about the likes of Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, among other forks in the road.

This was an intense, tight series that ended in a painful way for the Blue Jackets. The Bruins, meanwhile, hope that they’re merely halfway through a glorious journey.

If Rask keeps this up, he might just have a Conn Smythe in his future.

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.