PHT Morning Skate: First round ends tonight with three Games 7

11 Comments

You don’t need to be told anything to need motivation to watch hockey tonight. Three series will come to an end in three separate Games 7 and each of them has their own tale of success and woe in store for the participants.

Having three games to run with was made possible when the Philadelphia Flyers beat the New York Rangers in Game 6 last night. Thanks to their proximity to each other and the fact that the first round has to be done today, they’re lucky enough to play on back-to-back nights.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,250 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s $10 to join and first prize is $250. Starts Wednesday at 7pm ETHere’s the FanDuel link.

Game 7: New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers [Series tied 3-3] (7:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Rangers had a chance of ending things last night, but Wayne Simmonds and Steve Mason thought otherwise. Simmonds’ hat trick and Mason’s out-of-this-world play kept the Rangers (mostly) off the board as the Flyers rolled 5-2. While you might want to think momentum is on the Flyers’ side, the Rangers having home-ice advantage is a difference-maker.

The Rangers are 5-0 in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden and you could probably ask the Washington Capitals how fun it is to deal with them in those situations. New York has been a different team on home ice in this series, but they’re not infallible. Perhaps the smoothest move Alain Vigneault made was pulling Henrik Lundqvist after two periods in Game 6 to let him prepare for tonight.

Simmonds was a man on a mission last night. Do the Rangers have someone to play that kind of role in Game 7? Do the Flyers?

Game 7: Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild [Series tied 3-3] (9:30 p.m. ET — CNBC)

The Wild were a team that would not be denied in Game 6. Zach Parise’s four-point night was the kind of game Minnesota fans envisioned when he signed with the team as a free agent two summers ago. The other guy they landed that year, Ryan Suter, has quietly had a strong series as well as the Avalanche haven’t had the same scoring fortune when he’s out there as opposed to when he’s not.

Look for Patrick Roy to try and take advantage of the 30 or so minutes when Suter isn’t on the ice to try and get Nathan MacKinnon or Paul Stastny out there. The “X” factor for Colorado has to be Matt Duchene. His return in Game 6 was a welcome one for the Avs, and if he can get his legs back on home ice, look out.

It’s incredible to think the Wild are this close to moving onto the Central Division Final while using their third or fourth string goalie in Darcy Kuemper. The fact that he’s going head-to-head with Vezina Trophy finalist Semyon Varlamov and could beat him makes Kuemper’s story a fascinating one.

Game 7: San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings [Series tied 3-3] (10:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Kings are just the ninth team in NHL history to force a Game 7 after being down 3-0 in a series. That alone has made their run against the Sharks one for the history books, but they can go down as legends, so to speak, if they can win one more game.

Not since the 2010 Flyers has a team come all the way back from a 3-0 hole to win and that team went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. The Kings are a good enough team to have the same sort of run, but the Sharks would like to not have this sort of miraculous tale told at their expense.

The biggest question for San Jose is who they will start in goal. Antti Niemi is their No. 1 guy, but Todd McLellan went with Alex Stalock in Game 6 after pulling Niemi in Games 4 and 5. The Sharks are painted into a corner now where if Stalock starts and wins, they’ll have more controversy following them to the next round. If they leave Niemi on the bench and lose, the questions about giving up on the top guy will linger all summer and into next season.

It’s not an envious position for McLellan to be in. One way or another a great team is going home tonight and that’s perhaps the biggest disappointment out of this series.

Zach Attack: Parise the hero as Wild force Game 7

108 Comments

Nights like these are why Minnesota paid Zach Parise the big bucks.

The Wild alternate captain was in on four goals in Monday’s 5-2 win over Colorado, notching a pair of assists and scoring twice — including the game-winner — to help his club stave off elimination and force Game 7 on Wednesday in Colorado.

It was easily Parise’s biggest performance in his two seasons with the Wild. Facing a win-or-go-home scenario, he opened the scoring just 49 seconds in, tipping home a Ryan Suter point shot to give Minnesota just its third power play goal of the series.

Just under nine mutes later, Parise was at it again, registering an assist on Mikael Granlund’s second goal of the playoffs to give the Wild a comfortable 2-0 lead — well, about as comfortable as a lead can be in these playoffs.

As has been the case throughout this series and many others, a two-goal advantage didn’t prove to be worth much. The Avs stormed back with a shorthanded marker by Paul Stastny — his fourth goal of the series — a goal that really seemed to shift momentum. It came just as the Wild frittered away a 5-on-3 man advantage and the spark carried over to the second period, when Nick Holden scored a power play marker less than five minutes in to even the score at two.

From there, things tightened up and the possibility of a fourth overtime game between the two appeared likely — until Parise decided otherwise.

With less than seven minutes remaining, the 13-year, $98 million man once again went to the hard area and was rewarded, tipping home another point shot (this one from captain Mikko Koivu) to notch what proved to be the game-winner.

Parise then assisted on the first of two empty netters — Jason Pominville’s first of the postseason — before Marco Scandella added a second into the yawning cage to make it 5-2.

As mentioned above, the first and possibly only Game 7 of the opening playoff round will go Wednesday in Colorado. Given that the home team has won every game this series, the Avs have to be confident — but that said, the Wild will be riding high after emerging victorious in their first elimination game of the year.

Get your game notes: Avalanche at Wild

39 Comments

Tonight on CNBC, it’s the Minnesota Wild hosting the Colorado Avalanche at 9 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

— Avalanche rookie Nathan MacKinnon netted the game-winner in overtime and recorded two assists Saturday to bring his postseason point total to 10, which leads the league. His 10 points are also the most by a teenager in his first playoff series in the Expansion Era. All 10 of MacKinnon’s playoff points have come at the Pepsi Center. The 18-year-old Canadian forward is also the second-youngest player in NHL history to score an overtime goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Youngest players to score OT goal, postseason history

1. Don Gallinger (BOS): 17 years, 339 days vs. MTL on March 21, 1943
2. Nathan MacKinnon (COL): 18 years, 237 days vs. MIN on April 26, 2014
3. Patrice Bergeron (BOS): 18 years, 260 days vs. MTL on April 9, 2004
4. Jaromir Jagr (PIT): 19 years, 49 days vs. NJ on April 5, 1991
5. Ryan O’Reilly (COL): 19 years, 70 days vs. SJ on April 18, 2010
Elias Sports Bureau

— Four of five games in the Colorado-Minnesota series have been decided by one goal. (The fifth, Game 2, was a one-goal game until the Avs got an empty-net goal with 15 seconds left). The Avalanche and Wild have now contested 13 one-goal games in their 18 all-time playoff meetings, including 12 of their last 14 matchups. The team that has scored first in the last 10 one-goal games has won seven times.

— Wild forward Zach Parise has a point in every game this series, and his six points (1-5) lead Minnesota this postseason. The 29-year-old has 16 points (6-10) in his last 14 games, dating back to the regular season. Wild defenseman Ryan Suter is set to play in his 50th career playoff game tonight. In Game 5, he had a game-high five blocked shots and 31:31 TOI. Suter leads all skaters in TOI/game this postseason (30:30).

— Avalanche forward Matt Duchene, who led the team in scoring during the regular season (70 pts) but has yet to appear this postseason, participated in Sunday’s optional skate and Monday’s morning skate. The Denver Post reported Sunday night that he is likely to make his 2014 postseason debut tonight, while the Avalanche tweeted today that he will be a game-time decision. Duchene has been out of the lineup since he sprained his left MCL March 31 when he collided with teammate Jamie McGinn just 32 seconds into their regular season game against the San Jose Sharks. Avs coach Patrick Roy said Sunday that if Duchene is cleared to play, he will start on the fourth line and be used primarily on the power play. Duchene has eight points (2G, 6A) in his last 10 games against Minnesota, dating back to the 2013 season.

— Roy pulled goaltender Semyon Varlamov (for an extra attacker) for the third time this series in Game 5, and for the second time it eventually resulted in a win.

source:

Chara, Keith and Weber are this year’s Norris Trophy finalists

75 Comments

Boston’s Zdeno Chara, Chicago’s Duncan Keith, and Nashville’s Shea Weber are the three finalists for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman.

From NHL.com:

Chara…averaged a team-high 24:39 of ice time per game, nearly 3 minutes more than the next-closest player, and also placed in the top 10 among NHL defensemen in goals (17), plus/minus (+25), power-play goals (10) and game-winning goals (3). 

Keith led all defensemen with 55 assists and ranked second among blueliners with 61 points to power a Chicago offense that paced the NHL with 267 goals.

Weber ranked first among defensemen with 23 goals and set a franchise record for points by a blueliner with 56, leading the Predators in scoring for the second consecutive season. 

Of the three, Weber is the only one who’s yet to win the award. Chara won in 2009; Keith in 2010.

The last two recipients, Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and Montreal’s PK Subban, also had strong seasons, with the former leading all d-men with 74 points. However, both finished as minus players (Karlsson -15, Subban -4), which despite the dubiousness of that statistic may have hurt their chances with Professional Hockey Writers’ Association voters. (Ottawa’s poor season as a team wouldn’t have helped Karlsson either.)

Weber also finished as a minus player (-2) on a Predators team that didn’t make the playoffs, which could hurt his chances. That said, Nicklas Lidstrom won the award in 2011 with a minus-2 rating, so voters have been able to look past plus/minus before.

As for some so-called snubs…

— Minnesota’s Ryan Suter led the NHL in total ice time, averaging almost 30 minutes a game, while scoring more points than Chara’s 40, with 43.

— Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman had the third-most even-strength points (35), behind only Karlsson (43) and Keith (39).

— Calgary’s Mark Giordano was a favorite of the advanced stats community, with a 53.3% Corsi on a rebuilding Flames team that had poor overall possession numbers.

‘It was offside and they missed the call,’ says Wild’s Suter of Avs’ tying goal

155 Comments

The most critical play in Saturday’s highly entertaining game between the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild may have been a missed call. And it could change the entire complexion of this first-round series.

The Avalanche scored the game-tying goal with 1:14 remaining in regulation time, then won it on Nathan MacKinnon’s first ever Stanley Cup playoff goal to take a 3-2 series lead.

P.A. Parenteau’s tying goal, however, is brewing a massive controversy over a potential missed offside call as the Avalanche were entering the offensive zone. From the photo below, you be the judge. Now, the play at the blue line is not subject to a video review, as per the league.

The Wild weren’t happy about the call, or missed call, afterward.

“It was offside and they missed the call. It’s a damn shame,” said Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, as per Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press.

“Something about it didn’t feel right. It felt like they had too much of a step on the play,” added Zach Parise, as per Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.