Biggest surprises of the NHL playoffs so far

With the second round of the NHL playoffs underway, the chances of a perfect bracket are slim to none. According to NHL.com, there are only five perfect brackets remaining.

Because of the chaos, there have been many surprises since the first game of the 2019 NHL playoffs. We look at the biggest shockers of the first round.

Lightning sent home thanks to Blue Jackets

  • Led by head coach John Tortorella , the Columbus Blue Jackets swept the President’s Trophy winners, even after Tampa’s historical regular season.
  • The Lightning were one of the best offensive teams in the league this season but were outscored, 19-8, in the series and had scarce offensive output from their best players.
  • With 128 points during the regular season, Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov registered only two assists in four games for the Bolts.
  • This is the first time in NHL history that a No. 1 overall seed has been swept in the first round of the playoffs.

The Jets were grounded after six games

  • After making it to the Western Conference finals last season, the Winnipeg Jets were the most favored Canadian squad to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
  • The Jets lost in six games to the St. Louis Blues, who have won 12 of their past 16 games dating back to March 16.
  • All of Winnipeg’s losses came by one goal, as well as both their victories.
  • Even in their own arena during Game 5, the Jets allowed three goals in the third period and lost, 3-2.

Some of the league’s top players were shut down

  • Arguably the best player of the past decade, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby registered one assist in the playoffs — the lowest postseason point total of his career. He finished with a minus-4 in four games, the worst mark of his postseason career.
  • Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau also finished with one assist in five games with a minus-2 rating after scoring 99 points in the regular season.
  • Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist for the Predators and was not much of a factor, and the Dallas Stars took advantage, taking the series in six games.
  • Steven Stamkos also had a goal and an assist, with a plus/minus of minus-8. You could say he was a defensive liability for the Lightning.

Golden Knights get robbed in Game 7

  • Up 3-0 in Game 7, Vegas’ Cody Eakin cross-checked San Jose’s Joe Pavelski to the ice. Eakin was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct.
  • San Jose had an unreal comeback, netting four goals on the 5-minute power play to take the lead, with two goals coming from Logan Couture.
  • The Sharks won with two minutes left in overtime thanks to a goal from Barclay Goodrow, who only played two shifts the entire period.
  • On Thursday, the NHL apologized to the Golden Knights and admitted the referees were incorrect on Eakin’s penalty. That does not change anything for the Golden Knights.

A “Bunch of Jerks” beat the defending champs on the road in Game 7

  • One of the biggest underdogs in the playoffs, the Carolina Hurricanes took the Washington Capitals to double overtime and advanced on a goal from Brock McGinn.
  • The Caps’ Alex Ovechkin had seven goals in the series but finished with a minus-2. He was a force in the offensive end but not so much on defense.
  • Warren Foegele led the Canes with four goals. In 77 regular- season games, Foegele had 10 total goals. The third liner has been great in his first playoff series.
  • The Hurricanes advance to the second round for the first time since 2009, when they made it to the Eastern Conference finals.

By: Trevor Drake

Original Article

Recap: Bruins start strong, recover late to take Game 1 over Columbus

It might not have been pretty all the way through, but they got the job done.

For a while, this game was going exactly how Bruins fans hoped it’d go: the Blue Jackets came out rusty, the Bruins came out flying, and an early lead had fans feeling confident.

However, there was an uncomfortable feeling after the first period. You couldn’t help but feel like the Bruins should have done more. A few missed tips, a few bouncing pucks, a few great saves by Sergei Bobrovsky.

Those fears were realized in the third, when Columbus scored two quick “couldn’t do it again if they tried” goals and the Bruins found themselves trailing.

Just when it looked like the Blue Jackets were going to continue their stunning run with another steal, Charlie Coyle scored, then scored again, and all was well in Boston.

The B’s ended up taking Game 1 with a 3-2 OT win, their third playoff win in a row. Here are some thoughts from a wild night at the Garden:

  • In the first period, it was rust, not rest, for Columbus. The Bruins absolutely rolled the Blue Jackets in the first period. In terms of possession, shot attempts, actual shots…it was a madhouse. The Blue Jackets looked like they were hanging on for dear life, but a combination of Bobrovsky saves and Bruins flubs let the Jackets hang around.
  • You can’t help but be happy for Charlie Coyle. His turnover inside the defensive blue line led directly to the first Columbus goal. He atoned for that mistake by tying the game late in the third, and then did one better with the OT winner. As Jack Edwards likes to say, guilt is a powerful motivator.
  • Speaking of Coyle, it’s weird to say, but he’s probably been the Bruins’ best forward in this postseason. Yes, better than Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, etc. Coyle has ended up one the scoresheet many nights, and when he’s been kept off it, he’s been solid in other areas. He’s been great along the boards in the offensive zone, and has done a great job keeping possession for extended stretches.
  • Tonight must have been fairly sweet for Don Sweeney. His two big acquisitions were the ones that led the way for the Bruins: it was Marcus Johansson to Coyle for the game-tying goal, and Johansson to Coyle for the game-winning goal. BRUINS WIN THE DEADLINE!
  • In a good sign for the Bruins, Johansson has looked better in the past two games than he did all regular season with the B’s. Bruce Cassidy credited Johansson’s God-given talents after the game, citing his smarts and vision as his best assets. If he’s feeling good and gets rolling, it will be huge for the Bruins.
  • Tuukka Rask was solid tonight. There was nothing he could do on either of the Columbus goals, and he made some big saves in the middle portion of this game.
  • David Krejci didn’t play at all in overtime, leaving the game after taking a hit that seemed late and a bit high from Riley Nash. After the game, Cassidy said that he hadn’t talked to Krejci, but that he wasn’t in concussion protocol and is considered day-to-day. He also mentioned that the game ended before Krejci could come back, but kind of implied that he could have returned if the game continued.
  • Cassidy said postgame that he wasn’t terribly concerned about his top lines, but I’m not sure if I believe him. David Pastrnak has looked off the entire playoffs. Brad Marchand uncharacteristically missed a few golden chances tonight. Jake DeBrusk was quiet.
  • The only reason the Bruins are still playing? Their bottom-six forwards, oddly enough. It was the fourth line in Game 7 against Toronto, and was Noel Acciari who got things going tonight. As Cassidy implied after the game, if the Bruins can get their big guns going too, look out.
  • Charlie McAvoy showed another side of his game tonight: he was throwing the body big time. In the third, he got laid out by Josh Anderson behind the Bruin net. He got right up, and then proceeded to throw himself at any Blue Jacket he came across.
  • The most noticeable Columbus forwards to me tonight were Alexandre Texier, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Josh Anderson. Artemi Panarin was fine, but Cam Atkinson was borderline invisible, except when Marchand stepped on his stick before a faceoff.

Full Article

By: Dan Ryan

Lightning prove the curse of record regular season is real

The fate of the Tampa Bay Lightning proves that there is a curse that follows teams with historic regular-season performances.

The Lightning tied an NHL record with 62 wins in the regular season. Then they went out and got swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Columbus Blue Jackets, becoming the second President’s Trophy winner to do that.

Moreover, as this ESPN graphic proves, teams that have had historic regular seasons often falter in the postseason.

There is some logic to this. Everything has to go right for a team to set a record in a regular season for the most wins. On top of that, the team could be so focused on winning in the regular season that it feels a measure of satisfaction for what it has accomplished when it’s over. Contrarily, teams that didn’t achieve as much might be hungrier when the postseason comes around.

Still, seeing the Lightning, with the three 40-goal scorers in their lineup, get swept, is nothing short of shocking.

By: Larry Brown

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NHL playoff primer: 5 intriguing matchups to watch in the 1st round

It’s playoff season once again.

Before you fill out your postseason bracket, we break down one key matchup across five first-round series that could make or break a team in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Top-line takeover

It’s no secret – for the Leafs to trump the Bruins, they need to find an answer for the three-headed monster of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand.

The Leafs were tormented by the Bruins’ top line in their seven-game series last postseason. Bergeron and Co. controlled possession, posting a Corsi rating of 64.90, and dominated Toronto in high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five, 49-26. An encouraging note for the Leafs is that the Corsi number dropped to 54.84 when matched with Auston Matthews and shot up to 75 when going against Tomas Plekanec – suggesting the trio dominated much of the play against a veteran player who is no longer in the league.

Looking at the regular season, both Matthews and Bergeron were out of the lineup for two of the teams’ meetings this season, so we’ll have to see how the coaches choose to deploy their top talent with the pair back in the mix.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders

Goaltending vs. star power

The Islanders claiming home-ice advantage was key, but perhaps their biggest edge sits between the pipes. Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss combined to capture the William M. Jennings Trophy this season, and their dominant play must continue for the team to be successful against the Penguins’ offensive arsenal.

Though neither netminder has a ton of playoff experience, the job will likely be Lehner’s to lose. Since returning from injury on March 19, the 27-year-old has posted a 5-2 record with a .942 save percentage.

Barry Trotz’s club allowed a league-low 191 goals on the campaign and posted a record of 38-2-2 when scoring at least three times in a game. Led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins boasted the fifth-best offense this year and rostered four players with 70-plus points.

Pittsburgh mustered 13 goals in four games against the Islanders during the regular season, with Crosby and Malkin combining for eight points.

Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche

Can ‘Johnny Hockey’ outperform MacKinnon?

Calgary’s Gaudreau and Colorado’s MacKinnon each notched a career-high 99 points this season. Though they play different positions up front, the two will be a joy to watch compete as they best embody the speed and skill that will be on display in this series.

The All-Stars have no problem facing the pressure of playoff hockey, either, as MacKinnon has tallied 16 points in 13 career contests, with Gaudreau posting 11 points in 15.

Both men know how to deliver when it matters most, too. “Johnny Hockey” racked up 39 points and 17 goals in the third period or overtime this season, while MacKinnon contributed 37 points and 15 goals in those clutch moments. When the game is on the line, look for one of these two studs to follow through.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Stingy penalty kill vs. Electric man advantage

Special teams will heavily influence this matchup between one of the greatest regular-season teams ever and a franchise looking for its first playoff series victory.

The Lightning’s power play was lethal this season, clicking at a league-leading rate of 28.2 percent. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, deploy the NHL’s top penalty kill.

The Lightning and Blue Jackets posted similar possession numbers with Corsi ratings of 51.59 and 50.21, respectively. The more even-strength hockey Columbus can play, the better its chances of pulling out the upset – in the regular season, the Lightning erupted for six power-play goals on 11 attempts in their three victories over the Jackets this year.

St. Louis Blues vs. Winnipeg Jets

Battle in the crease

This Central Division clash is about as even as any playoff series on the slate. The Jets won 47 regular-season games and sported a goal differential of plus-28, while the Blues won 45 contests and were plus-24. Both teams finished with 99 points, but what may ultimately separate the two in this series is the play in the crease.

The Blues netminder was one of the best stories of the season. In 32 appearances, Binnington posted a .927 save percentage and an unbelievable 1.89 goals-against average en route to setting a franchise record for wins by a rookie goaltender with 24. The 25-year-old has yet to face the Jets this season, perhaps to the Blues’ advantage.

Hellebuyck was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season but will need to regain his form in a hurry after taking a step backward this year. The 25-year-old won 10 fewer games and saw his goals against average spike from 2.36 to 2.90.

With two netminders trending in opposite directions, goaltending will be the deciding factor in this series.

By: Matt Teague

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Roberto Luongo to decide on playing future after the season

Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo has not yet made a decision on his plans beyond this season. He plans to sit down with the team at the end of the year to discuss his future. The veteran has battled through another injury-plagued season while posting the lowest save percentage of his career, playing in just 38 games as a result.

Luongo, in the past, has indicated that he plans to play out the entirety of his contract, which runs for three more years after this one. However, the soon-to-be 40-year-old is set to earn a total of $3.618M over the remainder of his deal which is significantly lower than the $5.33M AAV of the deal.

Many expect Florida to be aggressive in free agency this summer and it has been expected for a while that they will take a run at Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. If they were to bring him in, they wouldn’t be able to afford Luongo’s cap hit as their backup, nor would they likely keep James Reimer ($3.4M per year through 2020-21) around as well. Instead, youngster Samuel Montembeault, who is expected to get the bulk of the playing time down the stretch, could wind up as a regular on the roster next season.

Further complicating the decision for Luongo and the Panthers is the potential for salary cap recapture as they, along with Vancouver, would be on the hook for some. This was put in place to penalize long-term contracts that were heavily frontloaded and tacked on cheap years at the end for the purposes of artificially lowering the AAV. James Mirtle of The Athletic (Twitter link) broke down the approximate numbers several years ago and if Luongo was to retire following this season, Florida would be on the hook for a cap hit of $1.287M for three years while the Canucks would carry a $2.84M penalty for that same time.

Because of Luongo’s growing injury history, it’s also possible that the Panthers will make a case that he should just be placed on LTIR which would allow them to exceed the Upper Limit for next season without incurring any recapture penalties. We’ve seen several players with similar contracts land on LTIR in recent seasons. However, since Luongo has been able to play in 38 games (and counting) this season, it’s not a guarantee that they will be able to make the case that he won’t be able to play anymore.

Full Article

By: Brian La Rose

10 thoughts after the NHL trade deadline

In a lot of ways the 2019 NHL trade deadline was a predictable one.

The Ottawa Senators sold off their few remaining good players. The Nashville Predators were heavy buyers. Teams like the Calgary Flames and New York Islanders that appear to be ahead of schedule did not mess with what has worked for them so far and decided to stay the course and see where their current rosters can take them. There also were not really any major shockers, outside of maybe Mikael Granlund being traded by Minnesota, in terms of the players who did get moved.

But there were still a few surprises thrown in.

The Columbus Blue Jackets went wild and mortgaged their short-term future for the hope of even shorter-term success, the San Jose Sharks doubled down on their confidence in Martin Jones, the Vegas Golden Knights went after the big fish again and the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals made some minor tweaks to their rosters.

We examine all of that and more with 10 thoughts and observations after the NHL trade deadline.

1.  Columbus has everything riding on this season

Keeping Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky was a pretty good indication that the Columbus Blue Jackets were willing to see what they could do this season instead of being resigned to the fact they will lose both over the summer, and thus trading them before the deadline. But then they doubled down on that by being the biggest buyers at the deadline by giving up draft picks and prospects for rentals Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid. That leaves the Blue Jackets with six unrestricted free agents after this season (including Panarin, Bobrovsky, Duchene and Dzingel) and only two draft picks in the 2019 class: a third-rounder and a seventh-rounder. That is the definition of “all-in.” The wild thing about this is that they are not even a lock to make the playoffs. This could all go south very quickly if they do not secure one of the top eight seeds in the Eastern Conference.

2. The Sharks have everything riding on Martin Jones

The San Jose Sharks made themselves better at the trade deadline by getting Gustav Nyquist from the Detroit Red Wings, making an already deep team that much stronger. They did not, however, address the biggest question mark facing them: goaltending. The tag-team duo of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell has not played up to a championship level this season and that could prove to be the team’s ultimate undoing in the playoffs. Jones has never been one to steal games for the Sharks, but he has always been, at worst, a league-average to slightly above-league-average starter. If he can return to that form and play at that level, the Sharks will be a formidable team in the playoffs. If he does not, it could derail a potential championship season.

3. The Flames have a lot of faith in their team

The San Jose Sharks added Nyquist. The Vegas Golden Knights added Mark Stone. The Nashville Predators added Mikael Granlund and Wayne Simmonds. The Winnipeg Jets added Kevin Hayes. All of the top contenders in the Western Conference added a significant player. The Calgary Flames? Added Oscar Fantenberg. A depth defender. No insurance in goal. No additional depth up front. They are riding into the playoffs with the team that has gotten them to this point in the season. Sometimes that is a good thing.

4. The Detroit Red Wings probably should have done more

It is a few years overdue, but the Detroit Red Wings have finally started to rebuild their aging, expensive, declining roster. They have assembled a ton of draft picks and have at least set themselves up for a chance to restock the cupboards. But why didn’t they do more? Trading Nyquist was a necessary move, given his pending status as a UFA, but was there really no market for Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Thomas Vanek or any other veteran on the team? It just seems like there was a chance here to move more players and get even more draft picks for the future.

5. The Nashville Predators love blockbusters

David Poile has assembled a powerhouse team in Nashville and somehow still kept his team well under the league’s salary cap. He’s also scored some of the biggest trades in the NHL over the past few years acquiring P.K. Subban, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Kyle Turris as part of blockbuster deals. He added to that at the trade deadline by pulling a stunner when he sent Kevin Fiala to the Minnesota Wild for Granlund and then acquiring Simmonds from the Philadelphia Flyers. Oh, and don’t forget about that pre-deadline deal to get Brian Boyle from the New Jersey Devils. That is what going all in looks like for a Stanley Cup contender, and, amazingly, his team is still in a great position under the salary cap in future seasons. A lot of times when GM’s swing for the fences on big trades, they start to eventually come up empty. That has yet to happen for Poile, who just keeps hitting home runs.

6. The Vegas Golden Knights go big

Even though they were in the Stanley Cup Final a year ago, it is still remarkable to see the Vegas Golden Knights, in Year 2 of their existence, going after the big-ticket players. They went all in trying to get Erik Karlsson. When that failed they traded for Max Pacioretty and signed Paul Stastny. Now they pulled off one of the biggest scores of the deadline in getting Stone from the Ottawa Senators, then agreed to a new contract. Stone is a star, a true top-line winger, and a player who can make a difference for an already strong team that is a contender. He is still in the prime of his career, making this a huge score for both the short term and long term.

7. Did Boston do enough?

The Boston Bruins are an outstanding team and a sneaky contender in the Eastern Conference, getting lost in the shadow of Tampa Bay and Toronto. But the top half of their lineup is as good as anybody’s in the league, and they have two goalies playing at an extremely high level in Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Their big question has been depth, as there has been little offensive production after Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug (when they are healthy). They attempted to address that by acquiring Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson. They are solid additions, and Johansson has been especially hot lately now that he is healthy. But will they be enough to get the Bruins through what will almost certainly be a daunting playoff run in the Atlantic Division that will probably include both the Maple Leafs and Lightning?

Full 10

By: Adam Gretz

Artemi Panarin doesn’t want to be traded, will discuss future with Columbus

Beginning this offseason, the rumblings that star forward Artemi Panarin did not want to re-sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets created the impression that a blockbuster trade was inevitable prior to the end of this season, when Panarin becomes an unrestricted free agent. That no longer appears to be the case. In the midst of another strong season for both Panarin and his team, the high-scoring winger is hoping to stay in Columbus through the end of the season, his agent, Dan Milstein, told TSN’s “Leafs Lunch” on Friday. Panarin is also reportedly opening up to the idea of an extension with the Blue Jackets.

Milstein stated that he and Panarin plan to meet over the All-Star break in late January to discuss the future. Part of that conversation will be about a potential long-term fit with the Blue Jackets. “He likes it in Columbus. They have a very good, young team…Management has been nothing but great to him. … He wants to help the team to win the Stanley Cup,” Milstein said.

Panarin is a competitive player, and Milstein made it clear that last season’s early playoff exit bothered the all-world winger, and he hopes to lead the team deeper into the postseason this year. There is also the potential for a long-term fit in Columbus, as Milstein applauded the efforts of young center Pierre-Luc Dubois and said that Panarin has enjoyed playing alongside him this season. While Panarin leads the Jackets with 41 points, the sophomore centerman is not far behind with 32. The promise of that pairing moving forward could be a vital factor in Panarin’s decision.

However, other teams and their rosters will certainly be considered. Milstein was honest that he and Panarin will likely begin discussing his potential fits with other teams when they meet next month. Panarin, still just 27, will likely be the most sought-after forward on the free agent market if he opts to leave Columbus and could pick almost any team to play for given his unique skill set. It has previously been reported that Panarin prefers to play in a coastal metropolitan area, with many speculating that the three New York-area teams, all of whom are in comfortable salary-cap situations, are possible fits, while Boston, Florida, Carolina or one of the three California teams would also be logical landing spots. The competitive Panarin also wants a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Even though he will almost certainly sign a seven-year contract at a minimum and a lot can change in that time, teams’ recent success and talent pool moving forward will also weigh heavily on his decision. As Milstein stated, they believe that the Blue Jackets are one of those talented, young teams that will be a contender moving forward.

One thing that will not affect Panarin’s decision is the future of Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, at least not in a personal sense. Although the two are good friends, Milstein said that “they are in no way going to be going as a package.” Bobrovsky appears to be headed for the free agent market, but his likely departure does not necessarily mean that Panarin will leave Columbus simply because his friend is gone. However, how the Jackets plan to handle the massive hole that Bobrovksy would leave in net will definitely be a part of Panarin’s calculations.

By Zach Leach

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NHL Power Rankings: Standout rookies for all 31 teams

Youth continues to be served in the NHL, as almost every team has a first-year player making an impact. For this week’s ESPN NHL Power Rankings — voted on as always by ESPN’s panel of experts — we take a look at some of its best freshmen (or, in some cases, middle schoolers waiting to get the call-up to the big school) of the 2018-19 season thus far.

1. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 1

Eeli Tolvanen. There was a time when this talented Finnish winger was being chatted up as a potential Calder Trophy contender, before being demoted to the AHL in the preseason. So far, he has eight points in 14 games with Milwaukee, with four of his seven assists coming on the power play.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 2

Anthony Cirelli. The Lightning forward has four points in 15 games, skating 13:50 per night, with a minus-4 goal differential at 5-on-5.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 5

Igor Ozhiganov. The 25-year-old KHL import doesn’t have a point in 12 games while skating 13:50 per night. As Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star wrote: “He hasn’t done anything particularly noteworthy — no big goals, or memorable passes. But he hasn’t done anything wrong, and that in itself is often praise-worthy of a defenseman.” So, congrats on not being noteworthy, Igor.

4. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 3

Vladislav Kamenev. Acquired from the Predators as part of the Matt Duchene trade, Kamenev had his arm broken by defenseman Brooks Orpik last season, limiting him to just three games. He’s played nine games this season with a goal and an assist, skating just 9:05 per game as a fourth-line center.

5. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 6

Antti Suomela. The 24-year-old Finnish center has two goals and three assists in 14 games. His 1.91 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 is third best on the Sharks this season.

6. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 7

Ryan Donato. One of the most surprising demotions of the season thus far. Donato had one goal in 11 games and was sent down to AHL Providence to work on his offensive game. That’s after his incredible nine points in 12 games debut for the Bruins in 2017-18.

7. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 8

Brendan Lemieux. The most notable accomplishment for the spawn of Claude Lemieux this season has been a two-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Vincent Trocheck. Otherwise, he’s averaged 5:32 per game and is a minus-17 in shot attempts at 5-on-5.

8. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 10

Travis Boyd. The depth forward, 25, was injured in the preseason and returned on Nov. 5 with two assists against the Oilers.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 4

Juuso Riikola. Injuries on defense for the Penguins gave the 24-year-old Finn some early-season chances. He’s been a bit overwhelmed, to the tune of minus-39 in shot attempts, worst among Pittsburgh defensemen. Yes, including Jack Johnson.

10. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 9

Jordan Greenway. The promising winger was sent down to the AHL after a rough start, playing a couple of games for Iowa. He returned with a rediscovered confidence, and has a goal and two assists in his last four games.

11. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 15

Juuso Valimaki. Another Finn! Valimaki, a first-rounder for the Flames in 2017, is skating 14:46 per game. He’s on the plus side of possession but has a minus-5 in goal differential.

12. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 24

Elias Pettersson. The Canucks star rookie became the first player to record 16-plus points through his first 10 career NHL games since 1992-93, when Dimitri Kvartalnov and Nikolai Borschevsky accomplished the feat. You heard it here first: Elias Pettersson, the new Nikolai Borschevsky.

13. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 16

Josh Ho-Sang. As usual, interesting things are happening around Josh Ho-Sang. He was on fire for the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers, including a 12 points in 12 games run. At the same time, he had to apologize for comments he gave to the New York Post about his lack of premium ice time.

14. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 14

Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He’s 18 years old, the No. 3 overall pick in June, and has seven points in his first 15 NHL games for the resurgent Habs.

15. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 17

Calvin Thurkauf. He’s missed a bit with an undisclosed injury, but the former Swiss world junior team captain had 24 points in 75 games with Cleveland last season. He’s got some upside, and the Jackets will have an eye on the AHL to see what the winger does in his second pro season.

Full List

By: Greg Wyshynski

Penguins Win Series With Columbus, Winning 4 Games To 1

Written by Jason Mackey at Pittsburgh Post Gazette.com

When the Penguins blew their chance at a sweep Tuesday in Columbus, coach Mike Sullivan emphasized the need for everyone to reset their mindset.

Sullivan’s team had to do that a few times Thursday, but the Penguins ultimately got the result they desired, a 5-2 win over the Blue Jackets in Game 5 of their opening-round series at PPG Paints Arena that pushed the Penguins through to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

It’s that sort of ability, to assess and readjust on the fly, that separates the Penguins from most teams.

“Guys in the locker room have been there before,” said Bryan Rust, the offensive hero on this night with a pair of goals, including the game-winner. “We’ve had elimination games that we haven’t won. We just try to take each day as it comes. Each day is a new day. You can learn from the past game and move forward. I think we embraced the challenge and had fun with it.”

A few of those veterans Rust alluded to stood tall in this one, too.

Literally.

After a lousy second period that saw them nearly fritter away a 3-0 lead, several Penguins leaders stood up in the dressing room and addressed the poor performance.

One that nearly brought with it another trip to Columbus.

“We needed to reset a little bit,” Matt Cullen said. “You can carry that with you into the third period, then who knows where we end up?

“We didn’t have a good second period. We were able to come in here. All of us knew we weren’t happy with what had happened. We were able to sort of reset, step back, take a look at the situation and say, ‘If we have our best period here, we’re moving on.’ I think as a group we did a good job of that.”

To continue reading this article, click here.

NHL Tuesday Roundup: Columbus Avoids Sweep, Rangers Tie Series

Written by Mitch Stacey at The Detroit News

Columbus coach John Tortorella hates the kind of music his players often blare in the dressing room. Still, he really wanted them to be able to hear it again.

After the first three games of the playoff series with Pittsburgh, the Blue Jackets players shed their gear in a room that was nearly silent. That’s the way it happens after a loss.

Before Tuesday’s 5-4 win over the Penguins, Tortorella said he wanted the young team to experience a playoff victory, lousy music and all.

“I wanted them — some guys with limited playoff experience, some of them with none — just to try to enjoy a win,” Tortorella said. “Now we’ll figure out how to go about our business and try to manage the series here.”

Markus Nutivaara, William Karlsson and Boone Jenner each had a goal and an assist, and the Blue Jackets held on to beat the Penguins and avoid a sweep in the best-of-seven playoff series. Nutivaara, a rookie, was making his playoff debut.

Jack Johnson and Josh Anderson also scored for the Blue Jackets, who were able to outlast the Penguins when they pushed back hard in the second and third periods and then got a short-handed goal from Jake Guenztel with 27 seconds left in the game.

“That’s a good team — they can sense the blood in the water,” Tortorella said. “But we got through it.”

Sergei Bobrovsky had 27 saves to help the Blue Jackets get their first playoff win in three years and their first-ever in regulation.

The Penguins now lead 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, which returns to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Ron Hainsey and Tom Kuhnhackl also scored for Pittsburgh, and Marc-Andre Fleury — pressed into service because of an injury to Matt Murray at the start of the series — had 29 saves.

Columbus got offense from its lower lines, building leads of 3-1, 4-2 and 4-3 before Jenner poked in a goal amid heavy traffic 5:37 into the third period for a 5-3 lead. Pittsburgh got the late goal but ran out of time.

“You earn your bounces, and they were better” Penguins star forward Sidney Crosby said. “They earned the win, and we didn’t have the desperation that we needed to win the game.”

Johnson scored first for the Blue Jackets at 11:46 of the opening period when he launched a wrister from the right point into traffic that bounced off Crosby’s skate and into the net.

There was less luck involved when Anderson made it 2-0 with a little over minute left in the period. He grabbed a chip pass from Karlsson, circled in from the right and beat Fleury between the pads.

Columbus went up 3-0 at 4:49 of the second when Nutivaara scored off a rebound.

Just like in Game 3 when they rallied from a 3-1 deficit, the Penguins began roaring back.

Hornqvist struck for Pittsburgh during a power play 6:43 in the second. His rebound shot from the doorstep rolled up the pad of Bobrovsky with the goalie dropped in front of the net. Ten minutes later, Phil Kessel passed the puck out to Hainsey to the far right and he beat a shielded Bobrovsky from a severe angle. The Blue Jackets were lucky to get out of the last few minutes of the period without another score from the swarming Penguins.

The Blue Jackets got a goal from Karlsson 27 seconds into the third that seemed to pump them up again. But Kuhnhackl found the back of the net on a rebound less than two minutes later to make it 4-3 before Jenner put Columbus back up by two.

“We’re all excited here tonight,” Columbus winger Brandon Saad said. “But we’ve got a lot more work to do.”

More Eastern Conference

(At) N.Y. Rangers 2, Montreal 1: Rick Nash and Jesper Fast scored, Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves and the New York Rangers even their first-round playoff series at two games apiece.

New York’s win also ended a six-game losing streak at home in the playoffs going back to the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.

Torrey Mitchell scored for Montreal and Carey Price made 30 saves.

Game 5 is Thursday night in Montreal before the series returns to Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

The Rangers, who gave up the tying goal with 18 seconds left in the third period of Game 2 before losing in overtime, stopped Montreal in the final minutes in this one.

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