Rumor Roundup: Salary cap decrease could spell trouble for Penguins, Kings, and Blackhawks

Milan Lucic. (Getty Images)

Entering the NHL off-season, it appears the league’s projected increase in the salary cap to $74 million could fall short.

Each year, the NHLPA votes on approving a five-percent escalator clause. If the players vote against it this year, the cap ceiling could drop. Last Saturday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the cap could fall to under $70 million.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks cites a source with ties to the PA claiming the cap would drop to $69.3 million if the players reject the escalator. If they approve it, the ceiling rises to $72.8 million.

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Watch Martin Jones’ outstanding toe save rob Nick Bonino of tying goal

Jared Clinton
Martin Jones (via NHL.com)

The Stanley Cup final is heading back to San Jose with the Sharks in a position to tie the series and force a seventh game. And even though it was the first game of the series in which Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski found the goal column, it’s Martin Jones who was the real star of Game 5.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, as they have throughout the playoffs, dominated the possession game Thursday night and put the Sharks on their heels for a good portion of the second and third frames. And were it not for Jones, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Sharks emerge victorious. The Sharks goaltender made more than a dozen big saves, and none was more spectacular than this lunging toe save on what looked like a sure goal for Penguins center Nick Bonino.

After receiving a cross-ice pass, Phil Kessel, who was a force all night, fired a shot that was blocked but bounced right back onto his tape. Kessel’s second shot was low and hard but was kicked away by Jones right onto Bonino’s stick. He immediately batted a backhand towards the net when Jones darted his left pad out to rob Bonino: Read more

Sharks get a perfect storm in Game 5 – can they conjure up two more?

Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Martin Jones  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH – If the San Jose Sharks are going to come back from the near dead and win this Stanley Cup final – and with this group anything is possible – it is going to need carbon copies of Game 5 in Games 6 and 7.

Can it happen? Sure. Maybe Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray’s bubble has burst and the Sharks have finally pierced his armor. Perhaps whoever is refereeing the next two games will have as terrible outings as Dan O’Rourke and Dan O’Halloran had in Game 5 Thursday night. It’s possible Sharks defenseman Brent Burns will continue to commit everything short of homicide and get away with it. (Whether that happens will be largely contingent on whether or not the officials continue their generally inept performance. That is indeed a very likely development.) Maybe Martin Jones bails his team out for 120 more minutes and wins the Conn Smythe Trophy. And finally, the star who flies under the radar on a team chock full of enormous personalities, Logan Couture, just might continue to be the best player on the ice.

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Was Pittsburgh’s fatal flaw exposed by San Jose in Game 5?

Ryan Kennedy
San Jose's Logan Couture tracks Olli Maatta of the Penguins (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH – The Penguins had a chance to slay San Jose on home ice, but the Sharks had some tricks of their own and now the series is headed back to California. Even though Pittsburgh dominated the possession game, San Jose used opportunistic scoring to down the Pens 4-2. Perhaps most disturbing for Pittsburgh is how exposed the team’s inexperienced defense corps looked at times, particularly in the first three minutes when the Sharks staked themselves to a 2-0 lead.

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Report: If Penguins win the Cup, recently-retired Pascal Dupuis will be among first to lift it

Ian Denomme
Pascal Dupuis and Sidney Crosby. (Getty Images)

Six months after he was forced to retire due to ongoing problems with blood clots, Penguins left winger Pascal Dupuis remains very much part of the team.

So much so, that a report suggests he will be one of the first to get to lift the Stanley Cup if the Penguins win it on Thursday.

Translation: If the Penguins win the Stanley Cup tonight, the plan is for Pascal Dupuis to be one of the first to lift it. That’s according to Journal de Montreal hockey reporter Jonathan Bernier.

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No pressure, Matt Murray: Pittsburgh naming street after goaltender ahead of Game 5

Jared Clinton
Matt Murray (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray has had an outstanding run through the post-season, and the 22-year-old goaltender is on the cusp of backstopping his club to a Stanley Cup in his first NHL campaign, something only a few rookie netminders have ever done before.

In 19 games, Murray is 14-5-0 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .925 save percentage, and Murray’s calm and cool personality has been one of the talking points throughout the post-season. That said, the netminder will definitely have some sort of nerves, if even in passing, as he prepares to potentially help the Penguins secure the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup.

As if simply playing in Game 5 with a chance to win the sport’s greatest prize isn’t enough, though, Murray will have another honor to think about heading into the contest. We’re not talking about the Conn Smythe Trophy, though that is a possibility for Murray, but rather a civic honor: Murray will be honored with his very own street come Thursday. Seriously.

Ahead of Game 5, the City of Pittsburgh will officially change the name of Murray Ave., to “Matt Murray Ave.,” to honor the Penguins netminder, but it’s only for the day. Read more

Sharks need to replicate NHL’s greatest comeback ever to capture Stanley Cup

The Sharks may be watching their Cup hopes slip away. (Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: On Monday, the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 to take a 3-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup final. The Sharks are now in a near-insurmountable hole, according to the NHL’s public relation department:

 

The one team that overcame the 3-1 deficit? The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs actually came all the way back from down 3-0, the only pro sports team ever to complete the comeback in a championship series.

From the 2013 THN book The Biggest of Everything in Hockey, this is the story of the biggest comeback in hockey history — one the Sharks are hoping to repeat.

It never happened before, nor has it happened since. And it very likely will never happen again.

Coached by Clarence ‘Hap’ Day, the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs remain the only team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup final. They accomplished that feat because Day went totally against the coaching grain, and then some.

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Ranking the three horses left in the Conn Smythe race

Jared Clinton
Phil Kessel and Matt Murray (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nothing indicates the season is on the cusp of ending quite like seeing the Stanley Cup enter the building, and that will be exactly the case Thursday night at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins’ convincing 3-1 victory over the Sharks Monday night gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 series lead, inching them ever closer to hoisting their second championship in eight season.

But the Stanley Cup won’t be the only piece of hardware in the building for Game 5. Before the Stanley Cup is presented — be it Thursday, Sunday or Wednesday — commissioner Gary Bettman will present the Conn Smythe trophy to the post-season MVP.

Heading into the final, there were a number of top candidates from both clubs, including the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton. Given how the final has gone, though, it feels like an inevitability that the Conn Smythe will be heading Pittsburgh’s way. Barring the overtime game-winner by San Jose’s Joonas Donskoi, the Penguins have led for the entirety of the series and the Sharks’ biggest stars have been frustrated and largely held off the board with the aforementioned San Jose foursome combining for zero goals and six points.

As far as potential Conn Smythe winners go, though, there’s no clear-cut frontrunner. Last season, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith unanimously won the playoff MVP award and he was a no-brainer top choice. But this season’s winner could boil down to only a few top candidates, with the best bets being Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, winger Phil Kessel or rookie goaltender Matt Murray. But who’s leading the race? Read more