Josh Elliott

Josh Elliott is a stay-at-home web editor for Post-to-Post on weekends and a contributor to The Hockey News magazine. From drafts to contracts to trades, he loves the business of hockey and plays nothing but Dynasty Mode in EA’s NHL video games. He’s a Western Journalism grad, a hockey addict and a closet comic book junkie.

John Gibson makes Anaheim Ducks coach Boudreau look brilliant

Josh Elliott
Ducks John Gibson makes a save against the Kings

There’s an old saying in hockey.

“Show me a good goalie and I’ll show you a good coach.”

Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau apparently likes to flip that phrase around. With a solid, established starter at his disposal on Saturday, he opted to go with rookie John Gibson over Ducks regular Jonas Hiller.

And it worked. Gibson pitched a 28-save shutout against the Los Angeles Kings in a 2-0 win that evened the Kings-Ducks series at two games apiece.

The Kings pressed hard to beat the 20-year-old Gibson. Anaheim didn’t even get a shot in the second period while L.A. came at the Ducks in waves. But there was no solving the young American netminder in his first career playoff game.

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before.

Boudreau’s never been one to pick a goalie and run with him in the playoffs. Unlike many coaches who like to rely on an established veteran to carry the team, Boudreau has a history of turning to young goaltenders when the chips are down.

And for whatever reason, it seems to work for him.

Just ask Braden Holtby, Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth about their playoff experience under Boudreau in Washington. All those guys had bright playoff moments under Boudreau, short-lived though they were.

Boudreau’s never been shy about trying a new guy in net, though he keeps a short leash on his goaltenders and has a keen sense for who’s going to have the hot hand.

That hot hand is Gibson right now, and there’s every likelihood he gets the start in Game 5 after Saturday’s performance.

Kings backup Martin Jones also had a good night after coming in at 2-0 in relief of Jonathan Quick. He didn’t allow a goal, but Jones couldn’t score for his team, either, and that’s what L.A. really needed.

And while there’s no chance Jones takes the net from Quick, tonight will have plenty of resonance in Anaheim.

Has John Gibson, the goalie of the future, arrived already?

Are Jonas Hiller’s days over with the Ducks?

And is Frederik Andersen happy to stay as a backup? He did get some action earlier in these playoffs, after all.

Three good goalies is a good problem to have, especially when you like to play them off each other.

Three goalies is a whole lot better than no goalies.

Bruce Boudreau would certainly agree.

Squirt squirt: Habs-Bruins Game 5 turns into Watergate 2.0

Josh Elliott
Subban argues about Thornton

Wiley veteran Bruins forward Shawn Thornton found a new way to irritate his opponents on Saturday.

He sprayed the Habs’ P.K. Subban with water while the game was going on.

The incident happened in the last minute of the game with Subban swooping back along the boards in the neutral zone to pick up the puck. That’s when Thornton squirted him in the face with a water bottle.

Observe.

Now, there’s word the league might be looking into it.

It was adorable a few days ago when the Anaheim Ducks’ Corey Perry (that little rascal!) sprayed Jeff Carter‘s glove.

But when Thornton sprayed water at Subban in the Bruins’ 4-2 win on Saturday, the move instantly came under harsh criticism.

Maybe it’s because this is P.K. Subban, and the game was in Boston, and Subban is clearly the Habs’ only shot at winning the series right now, and everyone is just out of their minds about everything in this series.

Or maybe it’s because Subban was actually trying to play the puck in the dying seconds of the game. But the alleged shot of water didn’t keep Subban from making the play, though it did rile him up good. Subban came back to the bench to yell at Thornton, while Thornton sat and simply laughed.

Does Thornton deserve a suspension?

Absolutely not. Maybe a fine – maybe – if the league wants to send a message about that kind of thing. He was on the bench after all, and shouldn’t have been interfering in the play.

Though it didn’t change the course of the game, people will now have something else Subban-related to discuss until Game 6.

But the Habs should be worrying about a few other things.

Like a Boston Bruins power play that’s suddenly figured itself out. The Bruins scored two goals 32 seconds apart in the second period, courtesy of Reilly Smith and Jarome Iginla. The goals broke a 0-for-10 streak of power play futility for the Bruins in the series. They also gave Boston a 3-0 lead and put the game out of reach for the Habs.

Or maybe Montreal should worry that Subban – a defenceman – is driving their offence while their big names on forward sit quiet.

Maybe the rest of the team should step up and make it more about the Canadiens, and less about Subban.

Because water bottle squirt or not, the Habs didn’t show up when it mattered in Game 5, and are now one loss away from elimination.

Top 5: Returning players at the 2014 IIHF World Championship

Josh Elliott
Nashville Predators v Calgary Flames

While the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs rages on in North America, it’s easy to overlook the World Championship tournament playing out in Belarus right now. (Easy if you’re not a Canadian still hiding your head in shame after Friday’s loss to Cristobal Huet and Team France.) But the World Championship tournament is an odd one in that it often produces incredible performances from players you wouldn’t expect.

Just look at France’s 3-2 victory over Canada on Friday. Who would have thought Huet would outduel James Reimer? Who even knew Huet was still playing?

And who could have expected Binghamton Senator Stephane Da Costa to carry the offensive load for the French?

Like I said, it’s an odd tournament, and it produces some oddly spectacular performances.

Here are five players who put on impressive showings at last year’s tournament. They’re all coming back this year, and they just might surprise you for a second time.
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California Chrome: Kentucky Derby winner, Anaheim Ducks fan?

Josh Elliott
California Chrome Ducks Fan

As the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings duke it out for California supremacy in the second round of the playoffs, a champ from another sport has already chosen his favourite team.

Turns out California Chrome, the winning horse from last week’s 140th Kentucky Derby, is a Ducks fan.

California Chrome was born and raised in Orange County, California and is the first horse to win the Derby from that state since 1962.

The photo was taken at Churchill Downs as California Chrome’s trainers prepare him for the Preakness on May 17.

Questions remain as Fleury earns 50th career playoff win, ties Pittsburgh Penguins shutout record

Josh Elliott
Marc-Andre Fleury

Enigmatic. It’s a word we often use when referring to streaky European wingers, but maybe it’s time we start using it to describe Canadian goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins. And it’s a word you should never, ever apply to your goaltender if you hope to win the Stanley Cup.

Yet the word seems apt, because on a night when he earned his 50th career playoff win – and a shutout to boot – we still don’t know what kind of goalie Fleury really is. Is he among the elite goalies in the NHL, as he appeared to be earlier in his career? Or is he a goalie who crumples under playoff pressure, as he’s done in recent years?

Or does he fall somewhere in between – an average goalie on an above-average team, elevated by the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang?
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Bryan Bickell in full beast mode for the Blackhawks’ playoff run

Josh Elliott
Chicago Blackhawk Bryan Bickell

It’s spring, that wonderful time of year when the flowers bloom, the post-season begins and Bryan Bickell wakes from his winter slumber for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Bickell was a monster in Sunday’s 4-1 Hawks victory over the Minnesota Wild. The 28-year-old scored a goal and two assists in the victory, giving him eight points in as many games this post-season. He was incredible, in part because you probably found yourself staring at him incredulously.

Because there’s no doubt about it now: regular season be damned, Bryan Bickell is all about the post-season.
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Top 10 teenaged points-per-game scorers in the playoffs

Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon against the Minnesota Wild

Nathan MacKinnon had a pretty special post-season, even if his Colorado Avalanche bowed out in the first round. The first overall pick from 2013 stepped up in a big way, not just for his team, but in the record books. With 2 goals and 8 assists in just seven games, MacKinnon was the fastest 18-year-old to reach 10 points in the playoffs.

And as far as teenage scoring goes, he’s joining a list of some of the best players in history.

Here are the top 10 teenaged scorers in NHL history, ranked by their average points-per-game.
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Free of superstar pressure, Gaborik excels with Los Angeles Kings

Josh Elliott
Marian Gaborik celebrates a goal for the LA Kings

Marian Gaborik has had to be ‘the guy’ for most of his career, but now that he’s been freed of those expectations in Los Angeles, his star has really begun to shine. And it shone bright Saturday in Game 1 of the Kings’ second round series against the Anaheim Ducks.

All three goals in the Kings’ 3-2 OT win were because of Gaborik. First, he set up Alec Martinez with a deft feed from below the Ducks goalline. Then, with 7 seconds left in the game and his team down 2-1, Gaborik batted a rebound out of the air and beat Jonas Hiller to send the game to overtime. Gaborik then capped off his amazing night with a tip-in goal off an Anze Kopitar shot to give the Kings the Game 1 victory.

The 32-year-old Gaborik isn’t the most important player on the Kings, but he certainly looked like it on Saturday. He brought offence to a team that has always struggled in that area, providing exactly what the Kings hoped they were getting when they acquired him at the 2014 trade deadline.

He’s not the most consistent or durable player, but Marian Gaborik has the skill to be one of the best – under the right circumstances.

Gaborik looks like he’s found those right circumstances in Los Angeles. Maybe that’s because, for the first time, he doesn’t have to be the team’s best player, and the franchise’s fortunes don’t ride on his fragile health. This team belongs to Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick. And, to a less extent, it belongs to Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. Gaborik isn’t expected to win every game for the Kings, so when he steps up and works his magic, it’s an added bonus. If he disappears or gets injured, L.A. still has its core players to rely on.

And that seems to suit Gaborik just fine, because he’s never really worked as a core player on other teams. The oft-injured, highly-skilled winger was always an awkward fit in his early days with the defensive-minded, Jacques Lemaire-coached Minnesota Wild.

When he signed a big-ticket contract with the Rangers in 2009, he was again expected to bring some superstar flash to a blue-collar roster. And he did that some of the time (two 40-goal seasons is nothing to sniff at), but he also battled injuries and had an awful season last year.

That awful season got him traded to Columbus, where the Blue Jackets hoped he’d sell jerseys and be the new face of the franchise. But he again disappointed, scoring a total of 9 goals in 34 games during his time in Columbus, and battling injuries throughout. Columbus actually fared better with him out of the lineup, so they traded the Slovak and his expiring $7.5-million contract so they wouldn’t lose him for nothing in the summer.

Now, Los Angeles is Gaborik’s fourth city in the last two years, but it’s the first place he’s looked comfortable in that time.

In Los Angeles, he doesn’t have to be ‘the guy’ every night. But when he’s wants to – as he showed on Saturday – he can be ‘the guy’ when it matters.