Getty

Swiss stun Canada, Sweden crushes U.S. in ice hockey semis

4 Comments

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Switzerland stunned title favorite Canada 3-2 to reach only its third final of the world ice hockey championship on Saturday.

The Swiss will play the gold medal game on Sunday against defending champion Sweden, which strode into the final by crushing the United States 6-0.

Canada and the U.S. will play for bronze.

”We obviously got motivated a lot playing them,” Switzerland defenseman Mirco Muller said. ”They’re the best country in the world, hockey-wise, and they have a great team here. It was a great battle for us.”

Canada goaltender Darcy Kuemper made some fine saves in the first period before Tristan Scherwey scored the go-ahead goal for Switzerland with 1:19 remaining in the first period.

Bo Horvat tied it in the second but Switzerland proved resilient, and Gregory Hofmann restored the Swiss lead on a power play.

Gaetan Haas struck again on a power play in the third, redirecting into the net a shot by Sven Andrighetto from the point.

Colton Parayko blasted a slap shot past Swiss goaltender Leonardo Genoni to reduce the lead with 2:07 left in the final period as Canada pulled Kuemper for an extra attacker in vain.

”Switzerland played an unbelievable game,” Canada defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. ”From the drop of the puck they came at us hard in every facet.”

Genoni stopped 43 shots.

”It’s important that we win the last game,” Canada captain Connor McDavid said. ”We’re up to do it.”

Switzerland’s best results have been runner-up in 1935 and 2013. Sweden is going for a third world title in six years, and 11th overall.

”We’re the big underdogs (against Sweden),” Swiss forward Reto Schaeppi said. ”We have a chance if we play a really good game.”

Sweden beat Switzerland 5-3 in the preliminary round.

The Swedes set up their victory over the Americans with three goals in a 3:07 span midway through the second period.

”We didn’t play our best game but we put up a lot of goals,” forward Patric Hornqvist said. ”We still have some improvement to do for the game tomorrow.”

Viktor Arvidsson led Sweden with two goals and goalie Anders Nielsen made 41 saves for the shutout.

Trailing 1-0 in the second, the U.S. had a four-minute power play but allowed a short-handed goal by Magnus Paajarvi, who scored on a rebound after goaltender Keith Kinkaid stopped Mikael Backlund on a breakaway.

Hornqvist stretched the lead to 3-0 on a power play, and Sweden underlined its control when Mattias Janmark made it 4-0 just 11 seconds later.

Arvidsson added his second into an empty net in the final period, and Adrian Kempe finished it off with the sixth. Sweden earned its ninth win from nine games in this championship.

The U.S. pressured in the opening period, outshooting Sweden 16-8 and 41-19 overall. But it was the Swedes who went ahead. Arvidsson knocked in a loose puck in the crease following a shot from above the right circle by Filip Forsberg.

U.S. captain Patrick Kane, the overall scoring leader, failed to register a point for the first time in the championship.

”We just made too many mistakes and they capitalized,” Kane said. ”They’ve got a lot of good players over there and made us pay for those mistakes.

”It’s gonna be tough to regroup (for the bronze medal game) … but we have to do it.”

US upsets Canada, Russia blanks France to begin worlds

Getty Images
9 Comments

HERNING, Denmark (AP) — Cam Atkinson scored the winner for the United States to prevail over Canada 5-4 after a penalty shootout in their opening game at the world ice hockey championship on Friday.

Also, Olympic champion Russia thrashed France 7-0.

Dylan Larkin scored twice for the United States to hand Canada a bitter start to its quest for a third world title in four years.

”Hopefully, we’ll get better as the tournament goes on,” U.S. captain Patrick Kane, playing his first worlds in 10 years, said. ”We can play better than that.”

At 4-3 down, Canada captain Connor McDavid found defenseman Colton Parayko between the circles to equalize with 9:12 remaining in regulation.

In overtime, both teams wasted a power play, and the Group B game in Herning was decided in the shootout.

Canada blew an early 2-0 lead. Pierre-Luc Dubois didn’t waste time and swept the puck high past goalie Keith Kinkaid 47 seconds into the first period.

Ryan O'Reilly doubled the lead with 7:37 left in the period, then Andres Lee pulled one back for the U.S. with a wristed shot.

Larkin tied the score 43 seconds into the second, knocking in a backhand pass from Chris Kreider.

”We had a sloppy first period but Keith was unbelievable tonight,” Larkin said. ”We’re gonna need him through the tournament to play like that.”

Kinkaid made 40 saves as Canada outshot the U.S. 44-25.

”After the first, we settled in and it was nice to get tied up and to get a lead. And he did the rest,” Larkin said.

Midway through the second, forward Johnny Gaudreau scored after Kane fed him a cross to put the U.S. 3-2 ahead.

Anthony Beauvillier answered for Canada on a rebound.

Larkin added his second 3:27 into the final period for the 4-3 lead.

In Copenhagen, Kirill Kaprizov, Pavel Buchnevich and Evgenii Dadonov struck goals midway through the opening period to put Russia in command of their Group A game. Kaprizov added his second in the middle period.

Later Friday, defending champion Sweden played Belarus, and Olympic runner-up Germany faced host Denmark.

On Tom Wilson, Player Safety and avoiding suspension

Getty
27 Comments

For the second time this postseason Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson has been fortunate enough to avoid discipline from the NHL Department of Player Safety for a hit to the head that injured an opponent.

In the first-round it was Columbus Blue Jackets forward Alexander Wennberg, who went on to miss three games after he was hit in the head early in their series. Wilson was given a two-minute penalty for charging on the play, but the hit did not warrant a disciplinary hearing, let alone a fine from the DoPS.

On Sunday, it was Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin who was knocked out of the Capitals’ 4-1 Game 2 win. Dumoulin was back on the ice at practice for the Penguins on Monday and seems like he will be available for Game 3 of the series on Tuesday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN). Wilson once again avoided a disciplinary hearing and a suspension for what could probably be best described as a borderline and controversial hit.

He avoided a suspension on this one because, in the NHL’s view (via ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski), head contact was unavoidable because Dumoulin, in bracing for contact from an oncoming Alex Ovechkin, changed the position of his head just prior to contact. There did not seem to be any word on the changing position of Wilson’s shoulder, which seemed to play just as big of a role in the contact as Dumoulin changing the position of his head.

He avoided a suspension in the first-round on the Wennberg hit because the DoPS could not determine if the head was the main point of contact given the available camera angles.

[Related: Tom Wilson avoids suspension for hit on Brian Dumoulin]

Viewed in a vacuum and as isolated incidents those explanations might hold up. They might make sense. They might even be justified.

Here is the problem with that: This same thing keeps happening with Tom Wilson.

He always seems to find himself in these positions. He always seems to find himself at the center of the controversial play where “there is nothing else he could have done,” or “the contact could not be avoided,” or “there was not a clear view of what happened.” No matter the situation, no matter the hit, no matter the result, there is an always an excuse for why it was okay or why it shouldn’t have been elevated to the level of supplemental discipline. The story of his career to this point can probably be summed up as: Hey, that was probably a bad hit with an unfortunate result for the guy on the receiving end of it but there just wasn’t enough evidence to suspend him … this time.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Since entering the NHL at the start of the 2013-14 season no player in the NHL has been penalized more than Wilson. His 806 penalty minutes in the regular season are 85 more than the next closest player, and he is one of just three players in the league to be assessed more than even 600 penalty minutes during that stretch (Antoine Roussel at 721 and Cody McLeod at 707) are the only others.

He is third when it comes to penalty minutes in the playoffs (only seven behind the leader, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin) even though he has only played in 46 playoff games during that stretch. The two players ahead of him — Malkin and P.K. Subban — have played in 71 and 59, respectively, during that same stretch.

His career to this point is littered with borderline plays that leave plenty of room for debate as to whether or not they are clean, dirty, or something in between.

A brief sampling:

  • In 2015, he was given a match penalty for a hit on Ottawa Senators forward Curtis Lazar (play here) that was later rescinded, allowing him to avoid the mandatory suspension that comes with a match penalty.
  • During the 2015-16 he was ejected for boarding Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell (play here), a play that he was not suspended for.
  • Later that season he obliterated Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov on a hit that left Zadorov concussed (play here). There was no suspension.
  • During the 2013-14 season Wilson had a phone hearing for a violent hit on Philadelphia Flyers Brayden Schenn. He was not only not suspended — something that is extremely rare when a player has a hearing with the DoPS — the DoPS released a nearly four-minute video (seen here) explaining why he was not suspended (the DoPS rarely goes on the record for why a player was not suspended, let alone singling out a specific play for this sort of in-depth description).

Those are just some of the borderline plays that didn’t result in punishment. Amazingly, for all of the penalty minutes he has received, the times he has been ejected, and all of the plays that create arguments he has only been fined or suspended three times in his career.

During the 2015-16 playoffs (also against the Penguins) he was given a $2,900 fine for kneeing Conor Sheary on a play where he deliberately went out of his way en route to the bench during a line change to deliver a hit away from the play.

He was suspended twice for incidents this preseason. The first was a slap on the wrist that kept him out of two preseason games for this hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas.

Then, just one week later in another preseason game against the very same Blues team, he was given a four-game suspension for boarding Samuel Blais.

When the NHL DoPS reviews a play for suspension the first thing they do is eliminate the players involved and simply look at the hit itself as an isolated incident. Past transgressions do not matter. Reputations do not matter. Repeat offender status does not matter. It is simply the play itself they are looking at. The discussion at that point is centered entirely around “does this play warrant discipline on our part?”

If the answer to that question is yes, then — and only then — does a player’s past come into play when determining the length and severity of the punishment.

This, of course, is done in an effort to be fair and to not let any bias play into the ruling. That is entirely understandable. In most cases it probably works in handing out punishments.

It can lead to some issues.

When it comes to Wilson and the plays he has been involved in throughout his career there is always some amount of gray area in them. The Lazar play could be written off as accidental. Same as the Dumoulin play. Maybe the head wasn’t the main point of contact or targeted on Wennberg or Zadorov. On any one of them you can look at them and come to the conclusion that it wasn’t the intended result, or that isn’t what he was going for, or that there was some other extenuating circumstance that made the play what it was.

At what point, though, does this no longer become an accident?

If a player — in this case, Wilson — keeps finding himself in these situations when does it stop becoming an unfortunate series of events and start becoming a trend? At what point does it simply become about the player that is the common denominator in all of these situations?

At any given time there are more than 700 players on NHL rosters and there are only a small handful of them that we keep having these discussions about when it comes to their style of play and the incidents they are involved in. Matt Cooke used to be one of those players. Raffi Torres used to be one of those players. Brad Marchand, quite famously, is still one of them. And like Wilson, Marchand always seems to leave enough gray area for debate on a lot of his incidents (the old, accidentally on purpose type of play). Even though he has been suspended and fined more than any other player in the league during the DoPS era, there are countless other plays that seem to toe that line.

Even though the NHL’s DoPS won’t handle it this way, all of those players should lost the benefit of the doubt when it comes to this stuff. Wilson should be right there with them.

Wilson and the Capitals will argue that all of this is because of his reputation and the fact he has a target on his back.

“Yes, a little bit, yeah,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz on Monday, via the Washington Post, when asked if Wilson has a reputation to overcome.

“It’s something that you try to grow out of. He’s grown as a player. He’s gone from being a fourth-line energy guy to first-line power forward, and sometimes those reputations stay with you a little bit and you have to outgrow that, if you will, or it takes a little time. I think he’s doing a really good job. He studies it, he looks at it, he’s trying to get better all the time. It’s something he has to battle a little bit.”

Maybe he does have a reputation to overcome. Maybe he does have a target. But it is a target he has more than earned given his chosen style of play throughout his career. A style of play that carefully toes the line, always leaving just enough room for debate as to whether or not he intended to do the thing that he did that resulted in the unfortunate result for the opponent to avoid a suspension. After all, there was probably just nothing else he can do that situation.

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.

Buffalo Sabres to select No. 1 overall after winning 2018 NHL Draft Lottery

41 Comments

Congratulations, Buffalo Sabres, you’ve won the 2018 NHL Draft Lottery and will have the opportunity to select defenseman Rasmus Dahlin first overall in June’s entry draft.

The Sabres entered Saturday night’s lottery with an 18.5 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick, the third time in five years they’ve held that honor. After NHL Commissioner Bill Daly revealed the top 12 picks prior to Game 2 of the San Jose Sharks-Vegas Golden Knights series, the top three were announced following the second intermission — quite a while for Marc Bergevin, Don Waddell and Jason Botterill to nervously sit around.

But for Botterill and the Sabres, it was clearly worth the wait.

Here’s the order of the top 15 picks:

1. Buffalo Sabres
2. Carolina Hurricanes
3. Montreal Canadiens
4. Ottawa Senators
5. Arizona Coyotes
6. Detroit Red Wings
7. Vancouver Canucks
8. Chicago Blackhawks
9. New York Rangers
10. Edmonton Oilers
11. New York Islanders
12. New York Islanders (From Calgary)
13. Dallas Stars
14. Philadelphia Flyers (From St. Louis)
15. Florida Panthers

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Better luck next time, Sens fan.

Finally, here are the final NHL Central Scouting rankings of the top prospects in this year’s entry draft, which will be held June 22-23 in Dallas.

North American Skaters
1. Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie (OHL)
2. Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston University (NCAA)
3. Filip Zadina, RW, Halifax (QMJHL)
4. Evan Bouchard, D, London (OHL)
5. Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
6. Quintin Hughes, D, Michigan (NCAA)
7. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, U.S. NTDP
8. Joseph Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)
9. Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
10. Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa (OHL)

International Skaters
1. Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda (Sweden)
2. Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas Jr., (Sweden)
3. Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Chelyabinsk (Russia)
4. Martin Kaut, RW, Pardubice (Czech)
5. Adam Ginning, D, Linkoping (Sweden)
6. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat (Finland)
7. Grigori Denisenko, LW, Yaroslavl 2 (Russia)
8. Isac Lundestrom, C, Lulea (Sweden)
9. Jacob Olofsson, C, Timra (Sweden)
10. Filip Johansson, D, Leksand Jr. (Sweden)

North American Goalies
1. Olivier Rodrigue, Drummondville (QMJHL)
2. Kevin Mandolese, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
3. Alexis Gravel, Halifax (QMJHL)
4. Matthew Thiessen, Steinbach (MJHL)
5. Keegan Karki, Muskegon (USHL)

International Goalies
1. Lukas Dostal, Trebic (Czech-2)
2. Jakub Skarek, Jihlava (Czech)
3. Amir Miftakhov, Irbis Kazan (Russia Jr.)
4. Justus Annunen, Karpat Jr (Finland Jr.)
5. Olof Lindbom, Djurgarden Jr. (Sweden Jr.)

————

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.

NHL 2018 Draft Lottery: Details, No. 1 pick odds, top prospects

Getty Images
8 Comments

The 2018 NHL Draft Lottery will be held Saturday night and during the second intermission of Game 2 between the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights (8 p.m. ET, NBC, live stream) we’ll find out who will get the chance to select Rasmus Dahlin with the No. 1 overall pick.

In a change from previous years, picks 15 through 4 will be revealed during the Game 2 pre-game show beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The teams holding the top three picks will have to wait a little bit to learn their fate.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

As a refresher, here are the Draft Lottery details and percentages for all 15 teams that did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs: 

From the NHL:

The 2018 NHL Draft Lottery will consist of three drawings: the 1st Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting first overall, the 2nd Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting second overall and the 3rd Lottery Draw will determine the club selThe 2018 NHL Draft Lottery will consist of three drawings: the 1st Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting first overall, the 2nd Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting second overall and the 3rd Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting third overall.ecting third overall.

The odds for the remaining clubs will increase on a proportionate basis for the 2nd Lottery Draw, based on which club wins the 1st Lottery Draw, and again for the 3rd Lottery Draw, based on which club wins the 2nd Lottery Draw.

The 12 clubs not selected in the 2018 NHL Draft Lottery will be assigned 2018 NHL Draft selections 4 through 15, in inverse order of regular-season points.

Buffalo Sabres: 18.5%
Ottawa Senators*: 13.5%
Arizona Coyotes: 11.5%
Montreal Canadiens: 9.5%
Detroit Red Wings: 8.5%
Vancouver Canucks: 7.5%
Chicago Blackhawks: 6.5%
New York Rangers: 6.0%
Edmonton Oilers: 5.0%
New York Islanders: 3.5%
Carolina Hurricanes: 3.0%
New York Islanders (from CGY): 2.5%
Dallas Stars: 2.0%
St. Louis Blues^: 1.5%
Florida Panthers: 1.0%

* Under the terms of a Nov. 5, 2017, trade: The Senators have the option to retain their pick and instead send the Avalanche their first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

^ Under the terms of a June 23, 2017, trade: If St. Louis’ pick is in the top 10, the Blues have the option to retain their pick and instead send the Flyers their first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Otherwise, Philadelphia will receive St. Louis’ first-round pick in 2018.

Finally, here are the final NHL Central Scouting rankings of the top prospects in this year’s entry draft, which will be held June 22-23 in Dallas.

North American Skaters
1. Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie (OHL)
2. Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston University (NCAA)
3. Filip Zadina, RW, Halifax (QMJHL)
4. Evan Bouchard, D, London (OHL)
5. Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
6. Quintin Hughes, D, Michigan (NCAA)
7. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, U.S. NTDP
8. Joseph Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)
9. Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
10. Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa (OHL)

International Skaters
1. Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda (Sweden)
2. Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas Jr., (Sweden)
3. Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Chelyabinsk (Russia)
4. Martin Kaut, RW, Pardubice (Czech)
5. Adam Ginning, D, Linkoping (Sweden)
6. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat (Finland)
7. Grigori Denisenko, LW, Yaroslavl 2 (Russia)
8. Isac Lundestrom, C, Lulea (Sweden)
9. Jacob Olofsson, C, Timra (Sweden)
10. Filip Johansson, D, Leksand Jr. (Sweden)

North American Goalies
1. Olivier Rodrigue, Drummondville (QMJHL)
2. Kevin Mandolese, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
3. Alexis Gravel, Halifax (QMJHL)
4. Matthew Thiessen, Steinbach (MJHL)
5. Keegan Karki, Muskegon (USHL)

International Goalies
1. Lukas Dostal, Trebic (Czech-2)
2. Jakub Skarek, Jihlava (Czech)
3. Amir Miftakhov, Irbis Kazan (Russia Jr.)
4. Justus Annunen, Karpat Jr (Finland Jr.)
5. Olof Lindbom, Djurgarden Jr. (Sweden Jr.)

————

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.