The Stanley Cup playoffs roll on, and it was an interesting weekend where all four teams continued to stay alive. Here are a couple of thoughts from both series while wondering just how stringy and weird Los Angeles Kings Captain Dustin Browns playoff beard is going to become by the end of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Great playoff performance by Phoenix Coyotes Captain Shane Doan when his Yotes teammates needed him most. You could sense his intensity when he was speaking with NBC rink side guy Brian Engblom prior to Sundays Game 4 in Los Angeles, and he went out and scored two goals in a 2-0 victory that allowed Phoenix to stay alive. Doan might be the most compelling Lets win it for fill in the blank theme that we see develop during every Stanley Cup Finals, and he showed exactly why in pushing the series back to Phoenix for at least one more game. Hes being criticized in some corners for the penalties that hes taking against the Kings, but Doan has to play with that unrelenting physicality that can sometimes push him into the penalty box. Otherwise he isnt playing Shane Doan playoff hockey and matching the intensity of guys like Dustin Brown, Justin Lewis, Brad Richardson and Willie Mitchell on the Los Angeles side.
Henrik Lundqvist still hasnt allowed a bad goal during the playoffs. There is zero shot the Bruins were going to get by New York even if theyd squeezed by the Capitals and the Flyers. Its already down to Lundqvist (1.57 goals against and .942 save percentage) and Jonathan Quick (1.46 goals against and .948 save percentage) for the Conn Smythe Trophy at this point with Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar as dark horse candidates.
Pretty amazing that Claude Giroux is still leading the postseason field in scoring with 17 points even though he was eliminated by the New Jersey Devils in the last round of the playoffs.
Nine points and a minus-3 in 15 games for Zach Parise has been a little eye-opening with the New Jersey forward on the cusp of unrestricted free agency. It got so bad that he stormed out on the media after a loss to the Rangers last week, and is showing everyone just how much pressure hes putting on himself. While his numbers arent terrible Parise hasnt really done himself too many favors when it comes time to talk contract this summer.
Seeing plenty of talk about the Bruins being up close to the salary cap for the upcoming seasons. Theres no way of knowing given up the upcoming CBA battle between the NHL and the NHLPA, and the Bs still have yet to put Marc Savard on long term injured reserve. That would free up 4 plus million in salary cap space for the Bruins that theyre still currently carrying on their cap for a player that doesnt appear likely to ever return to hockey. That combined with a potential deal moving Tim Thomas away would free close to 10 million in salary cap space, so the Bruins have plenty of flexibility to make plenty of moves if necessary.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while blaming both the zoo and the parents in Cincinnati. Is it okay to do that, or does everything in life have to be all or nothing?
-- Dan Rosen says Sidney Crosby has a twinkle in his eye as he returns for, and wins, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
-- Tim Panaccio has a few thoughts on the sad passing of Philadelphia Flyers legend Rick MacLeish at the age of 66.
-- It looks like Ken Hitchcock will be back once again as head coach of the St. Louis Blues despite their fall in the Western Conference Finals.
-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gives a number of scenarios for potential expansion, including waiting another year before doing anything.
-- A good Players Tribune piece on hockey dad Matt Cullen preparing with the family for the Stanley Cup Finals with the Penguins.
-- Jacques Martin, currently serving as a member of Mike Sullivan's Pittsburgh coaching staff, is appreciating his first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
-- Joel Ward wants to see the NHL retire Willie O’Ree’s No. 22, similar to Jackie Robinson's No. 42 permanently retired by all Major League Baseball teams.
-- Ken Campbell says that the San Jose Sharks won’t be in a panic after dropping Game 1 to the Penguins.
-- So Ulf Samuelsson will be a head coach in the AHL next season for the Charlotte Checkers. Teams might want to stock up on the foil
-- This goal call by Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi for Nick Bonino’s game-winner in Game 1 is pretty damned awesome.
-- For something completely different: Bernie Sanders attending the Warriors/Thunder Game 7 on Monday night, a week before the California primary, might qualify as a savvy political move, but it’s also pretty clear that he's a big basketball fan. Did you see footage of that textbook old-man jump shot while Sanders was waiting for primary results a few months ago? Ball don’t lie.
Another once-valued Boston Bruins asset might be heading out the door with nothing coming back in return.
Russian prospect Alex Khokhlachev has signed a contract with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, according to a report out of Russia. The deal will become official after his entry-level contract with Boston runs out on June 30.
Khokhlachev, 22, was a second-round pick in the 2011 draft and spent the last three seasons as one of the Providence Bruins' leading scorers. In that time he appeared in only nine games in Boston, with no points and a minus-4.
At the start of last season's training camp, Khokhlachev said he’d never been given a legitimate chance by the Bruins at the NHL level. But “Koko” also never exactly crushed his chances in preseason, or during his regular-season stints with the parent club.
The belief is that Khokhlachev’s camp would have rather the Bruins traded him, as his family had settled in the Toronto area over the last few years. But he was, in essence, forced to go to Russia since the Bruins would continue to hold his NHL rights as a restricted free agent.
According to sources close to Khokhlachev, the last straw came when the Bruins signed a European free agent -- 28-year-old Finnish center Joonas Kemppainen -- before last season and gave him more than four months to prove himself at the NHL level. It was the kind of audition that Khokhlachev never felt like he received during his time in the Bruins organization, despite posting 59 goals and 168 points over the last three years in the AHL.
Clearly, there are still questions about whether the 5-foot-10, 181-pound center is a “tweener” -- not big enough or fast enough to score at the NHL level. And it looks like those questions will go unresolved as Khokhlachev returns to Russia for the foreseeable future.
The one thing we know from last summer’s NHL Draft: Anything can happen. See how the first round looks in Joe Haggerty's latest mock draft.
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