Matt Larkin

Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News. He's been part of the THN team since 2011, but he's been married to hockey since he got beat up for collecting NHL sticker books in the mid-1980s. If you like strong opinions on the game itself, fantasy hockey tips and a hefty dose of pop culture in your readings, he's your man. And yes, the eyebrows are real.

Two crucial questions face the Blues after Stars force Game 7

Matt Larkin
(Photo by Jeff Curry/NHLI via Getty Images)

It didn’t feel like the St. Blues lost Game 6 at home to the Dallas Stars. Especially if you missed the first period, when the Stars exploded for three goals. After falling behind 3-0, St. Louis outshot Dallas 37-14. The last 40 minutes looked like a Blues power play. They scored twice and posted a 5-on-5 Corsi edge of 75-25.

But guess what? The Blues still lost. They couldn’t find the tying goal, not even when Jaden Schwartz got a 10-bell chance in the dying moments, which Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen turned away with an epic pad save. St. Louis looked like the better team for much of Game 6, but it wasn’t enough. Now the Blues head back to Dallas for Game 7 with the possibility of Stars sniper Tyler Seguin returning from his Achilles injury.

And two questions linger.

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Slow-mo dangle? Ryan Johansen lights up Justin Braun for goal

Matt Larkin
Ryan Johansen. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

The San Jose Sharks were a win away from eliminating the Nashville Predators entering Game 6 of their second-round series Monday night, and the Sharks started out strong on the road with two goals. But Preds defenseman Roman Josi scored to get his team back within a goal before the end of the first period. And, in the second, center Ryan Johansen pulled out a dandy of a goal…sort of.

The move itself: a thing of beauty. But, wow, this has to be one of the slowest dekes ever, a silky skate lift to fake out Sharks defenseman Justin Braun, a power move into the slot and a low back-hander past goaltender Martin Jones. Check it out:

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Watch Stars torch Blues for two goals in 20 seconds, chase Brian Elliott

Matt Larkin
Vernon Fiddler.  (Photo by Jeff Curry/NHLI via Getty Images)

Well, that didn’t quite go as planned for the St. Louis Blues. The stage was set for a Game 6 triumph against the Dallas Stars. The Blues were at home, up 3-2 in the series and on the brink of advancing to their first Western Conference final since 2001.

But Blues goaltender Brian Elliott, who had a .932 save percentage in the 2016 post-season before Monday, was not himself. He fought the puck early and simply couldn’t make a save.

Left winger Mattias Janmark struck with a seemingly harmless wrist shot 4:53 into the first period:

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‘I’m never sore. I never get tired.’ Jaromir Jagr, 44, wants to be even better next year for Panthers

Matt Larkin
Jaromir Jagr. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

We listened and waited for Jaromir Jagr to finish laughing.

There should be no sweeter sound to a Florida Panther fan right now. Jagr spoke to reporters, including THN, on a conference call Friday a day after signing a one-year, $4-million extension with the Florida Panthers, and he had a case of the giggles. He couldn’t take seriously the concept of his body breaking down. That’s how good he feels physically, at 44, after completing his 22nd NHL season. Aging is so far off the radar that he perceives the idea almost as a joke if asked about it.

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Jori Lehtera, shirtless action hero astronaut politician? So says his chip commercial

Matt Larkin
Lehtera

To most North Americans he’s Jori Lehtera, St. Louis Blues center, fine puck distributor and habitual Vladimir Tarasenko linemate.

To his native Finns, Lehtera is more. What Chester Cheetah is to Cheetos…Lehtera is to a chip brand? In Finland?

Yes, according to this zany TV commercial that surfaced on YouTube Wednesday:

Lehtera stars as himself, being pitched by a scenery-chewing American to be the spokesman of Linkosuo Ruislastu chips. Cut to fantasy sequence including: Lehtera getting cozy with a blonde woman and showing off his ripped physique, a-la jeans model; Lehtera as an action movie hero; Lehtera as a governor? Lehtera as an astronaut? Yes. And he sells it all pretty well.

The chips are actually from a Finnish bakery. Linkosuo specializes in rye-based snacks. The mysterious woman Lehtera snuggles and later carries away from wreckage? His wife, Lotta Lehtera, a fitness model. As Finnish broadcaster Antti Makinen explained to me, Lotta’s father, Timo Janne, just happens to be GM of Linkosuo. And it all makes sense now.

A little over the top for a rye chip company? Nah. It’s fun. It would be nice the see more North American ads going this far. Connor McDavid, leading man? Why not? And we might as well say what we’re all thinking: couldn’t the World Cup ads be more like this?

Let’s snuff out three preposterous Auston Matthews rumors before they spiral out of control

Matt Larkin
Matthews

The Toronto Maple Leafs have won the 2016 NHL draft lottery and will pick No. 1 overall for the first time since they nabbed Wendel Clark in 1985. This is good news for the sport, whether you love or hate the Leafs. It’s the equivalent of a high-profile player landing with the New York Knicks in basketball. When the Leafs choose what they hope is their next – and dare I say first – real superstar, fans can decide for themselves if that rookie is a hero or villain. It makes for a fascinating story either way.

Auston Matthews is the player most experts expect the Toronto Maple Leafs to draft June 24. He ranks No. 1 in THN’s Draft Preview, due out in the next couple weeks, and on virtually every other major publication’s prospect list. And yet, rumors have begun flying around social media predicting something other than the Leafs picking Matthews will happen June 24. That smoke is clickbait, and there’s no fire to accompany it. Let’s extinguish three of the more ridiculous theories circulating in the hockey media landscape at the moment. And, yes, I’m aware that merely discussing them makes this piece clickbait about clickbait. Apologies.

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Update: Kris Letang suspended one game for late hit on Marcus Johansson

Matt Larkin
letang hit

Is Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang a lightning rod for dangerous plays or what?

Whether he’s giving or receiving, he can’t seem to dodge controversy. Letang avoided a suspension for this slash in the first round of the playoffs on the New York Rangers’ Viktor Stalberg, as the NHL Department of Player Safety felt the stanchion launched Letang’s stick into Stalberg’s face.

Letang might have a tougher time escaping the law after what happened in Game 3 of his Penguins’ Metropolitan Division final matchup against the Washington Capitals Monday. A look at his powerful hit on Caps left winger Marcus Johansson:

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Sensational Matt Murray wins Game 3 for Penguins – and the better team loses

Matt Murray and Patric Hornqvist (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

So much for messing with Matt Murray’s head.

That was the concern, at least in this corner, upon learning the Pittsburgh Penguins would dress their usual starting goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, for Game 3 of the Metro Division semifinal. Fleury hadn’t played since March 31, when he sustained his second concussion of the 2015-16 season. Fleury earned a clean bill of health after missing the Pens’ first seven playoff games, and coach Mike Sullivan dressed Fleury as a backup to Murray Monday night.

There were two risk factors there. For one, was it worth bringing Fleury back if he wasn’t going to start anyway? Why not rest him further in that case? And secondly, what would Fleury’s presence do to Murray’s psyche? It would only be human to look over his shoulder a little bit with the franchise’s all-time wins leader sitting a few dozen feet away in full gear.

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