Boston Bruins

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Predators top Penguins 5-1 to avoid 0-3 hole

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Predators top Penguins 5-1 to avoid 0-3 hole

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators are very hard to beat on their own ice this postseason, and now they have added their biggest piece of franchise history yet.

A victory in the Stanley Cup Final.

The embattled Rinne not only started, he made 27 saves. Roman Josi and Frederick Gaudreau scored 42 seconds apart in the second period, and the Predators beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 Saturday night to pull within 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

The Predators capped the biggest party in Nashville history with a victory that gave thousands of fans inside and outside of the arena reason to celebrate with even country star Keith Urban and wife, actress Nicole Kidman, high-fiving .

And credit Rinne for coming through with a very stingy performance and improving to 8-1 in Nashville this postseason.

The Predators call the 6-foot-5 Finn their backbone, yet critics wanted him benched after looking so shaky in the first two games in Pittsburgh giving up eight goals on just 36 shots. Coach Peter Laviolette benched him in the third period of Game 2 when Rinne gave up three goals in the first 3:28 of a 4-1 loss .

Josi also had two assists. James Neal, Craig​ Smith and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville as the Predators worked out some frustration against the Pens.

"Like our team has done the whole playoffs against Chicago, St. Louis, Anaheim, we showed really good composure," said Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban, who had predicted a win in Game 3. "We're going to take that into the next game."

Game 4 is Monday night.

Jake Guentzel scored his 13th goal this postseason and fourth of this series for Pittsburgh and now is one off Dino Ciccarelli's rookie record of 14 in 1981 for Minnesota. Guentzel, already with two game-winning goals in the series, put the Penguins up 1-0 on their second shot with a wrister off a rebound of Ian Cole that beat Rinne just 2:46 into the game.

Rinne stopped the next 26 shots for the victory and the party continued into the night.

Laviolette stuck with Rinne after lots of questions about his goalie, though he did sit veterans Cody McLeod and Vern Fiddler to get more speed with Harry Zolnierczykand P.A. Parenteau. Pittsburgh forward Carl Hagelin played for the first time with center Nick Bonino out after taking a Subban slap shot off his left foot in Game 2 that left him on crutches and in a walking boot.

Matt Murray extended his scoreless streak to 72:54 with the Pittsburgh goalie looking ready to notch his 21st playoff win. Then he gave up five goals in the span of 15 shots.

The Predators got it started with a three-goal flurry in the second.

Josi scored his sixth goal off a slap shot at 5:51 , tying it at 1-1 and finally giving nervous fans something to enjoy. Then Gaudreau, who scored his first career NHL goal in Game 1, scored 42 seconds later to put Nashville ahead with his wrister from the high slot , taking advantage of a screen by Penguins defenseman Ian Cole to beat Murray glove-side.

Just after that go-ahead goal, the Penguins had a rush on Rinne, and the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist made back-to-back big saves. First, he stopped Phil Kessel's wrister from the right circle. The rebound bounced back into the slot, and Rinne made a save on Chris Kunitz with an assist from Subban sliding over to help.

Neal made it 3-1 with 22.6 seconds left in the second, banking the puck off Murray's left arm for his first goal in the series and sixth of the playoffs. Smith's goal on a breakaway at 4:54 was his first of the playoffs, and Ekholm padded the lead with a power-play goal with 6:50 left.

Bjork faces 'good test' in first real audition with Bergeron and Marchand

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Bjork faces 'good test' in first real audition with Bergeron and Marchand

BRIGHTON, Mass – After a week of wondering what exactly 21-year-old Anders Bjork would look like skating with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the former Notre Dame standout will get his chance in a prime forward spot tonight against a stacked Flyers lineup.

With Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Ivan Provorov, Radko Gudas and Jakub Voracek among others expected to play for the Flyers, it will be a good NHL-style test for Bjork when the Bruins and Flyers suit up for the exhibition game at TD Garden. 

The first-year pro already has a goal while playing in more of a third-line spot with Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey on Monday night, but tonight’s audition with two of the world’s best players is exactly the kind of thing any young hockey player dreams about.

“I’ve been learning a lot from their example, and a lot from them just talking to us young guys,” said Bjork, who had 21 goals and 52 points in 39 dominant games for the Fighting Irish last season. 

“One of the biggest things is just consistency, and bringing your best in every drill and every shift in a game. You see how intense they are and how much they want to win every puck battle.

“It was definitely helpful to play in a preseason game [already], and get that confidence going. I hope to build on that. It’s crazy being able to play with players of that caliber [of Bergeron and Marchand]. Obviously, they’re some of the best players in the world. I’m just trying to do my best and keep up with them. I try to help them in practice any way I can.”

On Thursday night, Bjork will officially go from the title of practice helper to showing how his skating speed, high-level offensive instincts and hockey smarts can assist Bergeron and Marchand in a game.

“You can see that he’s a dynamic player who is willing to attack,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, in an apt description of exactly what he’s looking for in his system on the ice.

On paper and in camp practices, it has looked like a comfortable fit between with one of the NHL’s best tandems and much more of a Tyler Seguin/Reilly Smith-type fit than a Brett Connolly third-wheel kind of winger.

It got to a point with Connolly on their wing that Bergeron and Marchand were basically playing two-man hockey. That’s perfectly understandable when you’ve got the kind of chemistry that those two have built while scoring hundreds of goals in six years together, but it’s undoubtedly preferable to get a right wing who can bury some of the prime scoring chances he’s sure to enjoy playing with two All-World forwards.

Bergeron doesn’t anticipate the need for much hand-holding with Bjork and that should absolutely be the case if he wants to be one of those B’s prospects who makes an immediate impact.

“It’s been going well in practices, but obviously you want to translate that over to games on the ice against real opponents,” said Bergeron. “It’s going to be a good test for us. Hopefully, we’re out there talking a lot and we see some things that we can build off of.

“I like it. It’s nice to be able to help as much as possible. Most of the time the guys that are on our wing don’t need that much help. But you’re always there if need be, and it’s always nice to share your experiences and what you see on the ice.”

Thus far in camp, the young forward prospects have been a dominant factor while scoring and looking like they belong. The degree of difficulty rises with each passing preseason game and it will be a great gauge for Bjork’s readiness in a premium spot when he takes the ice with Boston’s dynamic duo. 


 

Morning Skate: Kurz takes Sharks' coverage to The Athletic

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Morning Skate: Kurz takes Sharks' coverage to The Athletic

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while appreciating Jimmy Kimmel more with each passing day.

*Congrats to FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz on his move to The Athletic. Here he details why he’ll now be covering the Sharks for them.

*Joffrey Lupul has apologized for intimating that the Toronto Maple Leafs are “cheating” when it comes to player injuries.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Loui Eriksson looking to bounce back with the Vancouver Canucks after a tough first year there. He’ll probably be better than he was last season, but one thing I learned about Eriksson during his time in Boston is that you’re not going to see his best unless there’s a reason for him to be at his best. Sitting in Vancouver in the middle of a comfortable, big money contract on a mediocre-to-bad hockey team isn’t exactly going to ratchet up the urgency.

*Tampa Bay defenseman prospect Mikhail Sergachev has “NHL written all over him” after a strong start to training camp with the Lightning. That’s music to management’s ears down there after they gave up Jonathan Drouin for him in the offseason.

*Nick Cotsonika chronicles the “big first step” that the NHL has made into China with an exhibition game there between the Kings and Canucks.

*This blog post pokes fun at Don LaGreca for a rant about geometry, but I agree with his overall point that the vast majority of people choose to like sports exactly because it doesn’t include these complex mathematical formulas that the fancy stats brigade is trying to introduce into the sports world with more and more force.