Calgary Flames rookie Sam Bennett comes up clutch with first career goal

Sam Bennett (Gerry Thomas/Getty Images)

Were it not for a shoulder injury to start the season, Sam Bennett‘s first career goal likely would have come sometime in October. Instead, the Calgary Flames’ top prospect scored his first tally when it mattered most — in a one-goal game of a tied playoff series.

After a scoreless second period and with Calgary up 2-1 on Vancouver entering the third period, a goalmouth scramble broke out in front of Canucks netminder Eddie Lack. Bennett, who was positioned behind the net when the shot from Joe Colborne was let go, swooped out in front and slapped at the loose puck to slip it home: Read more

Flames’ Michael Ferland sends Canucks’ Luca Sbisa sailing with massive hit

Michael Ferland (Gerry Thomas/Getty Images)

Through two games of Calgary’s first-round matchup with Vancouver, rookie Michael Ferland has been making a name for himself by throwing his body around. And for those who may not have taken notice of Ferland yet, it’ll be hard to forget him after the exploding hit he threw on Canucks blueliner Luca Sbisa.

Early in the first frame of Game 3, Sbisa carried the puck through the neutral zone and fired the puck into the Flames’ zone. Unfortunately for Sbisa, he didn’t see Ferland pursuing him from the right side. When the two came together, Ferland sent Sbisa flying with a massive body check: Read more

Canucks, Flames start ‘sending messages’ after Vancouver win

Josh Elliott
Deryk Engelland, Dan Hamhuis and Derek Dorsett

Did you hear that? That sound? That unmistakable noise echoing through Rogers Arena?

That was the sound of messages being sent. Words being had. Fires being lit, and tensions coming to a boil.

No, not during the game, a smooth 4-1 win by Vancouver over Calgary.

I mean the messages being sent between the referees and NHL head office. The words being had as officials tried to figure out what happened at the end of the third period. The fires being lit under stats keepers to get all the penalties right, and the tensions coming to a boil on Twitter over how the whole thing played out.

The referees had a lot of work to do after the game Friday night to sort out a whopping 132 penalty minutes (as of this writing) handed out to players involved in a massive brawl at 18:43 of the third period.
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Which Game 1 loser faces the most pressure to win Game 2?

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

If you’ve just lost Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs or if you’re annoyed at the header of this article, you’re likely thinking, “Sheesh, it’s one game, this is not news, mountain out of a molehill,” etc. And you’d be right in certain cases. You’d be wrong in others, however. No two series are created equal, and some Game 1 defeats were more alarming than others.

Here’s a brief rundown of the Game 1 losers, ranked from most justified in panicking to least.

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Why starting Eddie Lack instead of Ryan Miller makes sense for Vancouver

Eddie Lack (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

When Vancouver takes the ice tonight, goaltender Eddie Lack will lead them onto the ice while fellow netminder Ryan Miller, the Canucks big off-season acquisition, will watch from the bench. And, really, that’s the right call by coach Willie Desjardins.

It adds to the ever-growing list of goaltending controversies for the Canucks – a team that saw battles between Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo lead to Schneider being dealt to New Jersey, and then saw Luongo leave once Lack usurped the starting job – but this one was unavoidable. Unlike Schneider and Luongo or Luongo and Lack, there’s some definite clarity on which goaltender has been playing better, and that goaltender isn’t Miller. Read more

2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview: Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames

(Derek Leung/Getty Images)

VAN CGY head to head


CANUCKS: Henrik and Daniel Sedin are back as marquee NHLers. When Vancouver’s secondary scoring dried up in the second half, the Sedins played their best hockey, cycling the puck like they did in their glory days. The likes of Nick Bonino never did wake up on the second line, but behemoth Zack Kassian clicked with the twins and started scoring, which let coach Willie Desjardins keep sniper Radim Vrbata on the No. 2 unit. Stud prospect Bo Horvat blossomed on a grind line with Ronalds Kenins and Jannik Hansen. Horvat had some handy big-game experience as a teenager, from the world juniors to multiple Memorial Cups. Alexander Edler played his best ‘D’ since losing his confidence in the 2011-12 playoffs. He and Chris Tanev form the team’s top pair. Ryan Miller may not recover from his knee injury in time for the playoffs, but Eddie Lack outperformed Miller in relief, anyway.

FLAMES: The Flames win by playing a classic rope-a-dope style – starting out sluggish, falling behind early, lulling the opposition into a sense of security, then coming back and winning in the third period. In reality, none of that is planned. But what cannot be denied is the fact Calgary had the best goal-differential in the third period and was among league-leaders in come-from-behind victories in the final frame. The hardworking Flames have done a complete transformation in just a few seasons – growing from the dump-and-chase Brent Sutter approach to a layered east-west attack that starts from a mobile D-corps. It’s not uncommon to see T.J. Brodie or Kris Russell charge the net or a Dennis Wideman or (injured) Mark Giordano digging in the offensive corners. Calgary receives scoring from all four lines and has one of the best shooting percentages in the league. Read more

Milan Lucic’s state-of-mind, Leafs’ implosion prove mental side of sports is a massive influence on winning

Milan Lucic (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the wake of the Bruins’ shocking fall out of a playoff spot, GM Peter Chiarelli shared this tidbit of information that won’t please Bruins fans:

The idea that any player – let alone one like Lucic, whose game is predicated on physical aggression – could have their performance waylaid by mental struggles is one regularly derided by some fans who believe multi-million-dollar salaries are a panacea for all athletes. If only it were that easy. If only an NHLer could strap on horse blinders and focus solely on the task at hand, the Stanley Cup would go to the team that had the most talent every season.

But these guys aren’t robots. Nothing is guaranteed with any player. And you don’t just have to take Chiarelli (or Lucic) at their word to see how what happens between the ears has a direct effect on what happens between two ends of a hockey rink. The evidence of it is all around. Read more