• Down Goes Brown: Five best conference finals since 1980

    Sean McIndoe
    Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Five

    NHL fans are starting to get a little bit spoiled when it comes to the conference finals. This year’s two matchups have featured plenty of star power, several close games, and more than a little drama. And for the third consecutive year, both series are going at least six games.

    That might not sound all that impressive, but it’s actually a relatively rare situation in the modern era. Until 2014, it hadn’t happened at all in the salary cap era. And it wasn’t much more common before that. For example, it happened only once during the dynasty-packed 80s, as teams like the Islanders and Oilers (or both) could often be found cruising through a weaker opponent on their way to the final.

    So today, let’s look back at some of the best conference finals, dating back to the introduction of the 16-team format in 1980. Remember, we’re looking for the best combination of two series, meaning some all-time classic series (like Leafs/Kings in 1993 and Devils/Rangers in 1994) won’t show up here because the other conference served up a dud.

    Here are my picks for the five best years for the NHL’s final four:

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  • Swiss connection helps Tom Pyatt land one-year deal with Ottawa Senators

    Jared Clinton
    Tom Pyatt (Eric Lafargue for Geneve-Servette/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)

    The Ottawa Senators are continuing their raid of Switzerland this off-season. First, the Senators brought aboard coaches Guy Boucher and Marc Crawford, both of whom had spent the past several seasons in the Swiss NLA, and Ottawa added to their former Swiss league contingent Tuesday when they announced the signing of Tom Pyatt.

    Pyatt’s one-year, two-way deal carries a cap hit of $800,000 when he’s up with the Senators. The contract signals Pyatt’s return from a two-year stay in the Swiss NLA. He spent both seasons with Genève-Servette HC and had two stellar seasons, scoring 22 goals and 62 points in 92 games with the Swiss club.

    You can be sure that the 29-year-old’s play overseas, where both Boucher and Crawford saw him on a regular basis, helped Pyatt land the deal in Ottawa. Senators GM Pierre Dorion said as much in a release. Read more

  • Rumor Roundup: Canucks’ top priority will be addressing scoring depth

    Loui Eriksson (Getty Images)

    A lack of scoring depth scuttled the Vancouver Canucks playoff hopes this season. Only the New Jersey Devils scored fewer goals . Addressing this should be a priority for GM Jim Benning.

    Since March, there’s been talk Benning could pursue Boston Bruins right winger Loui Eriksson via free agency. However, Jeff Paterson of The Province believes the St. Louis Blues’ Troy Brouwer could be a better fit.

    Paterson cites the 30-year-old Brouwer’s playoff experience, right-handed shot, versatility, durability, work ethic and leadership as the positive factors he’d bring the Canucks. Coming off a three-year, $11- million deal, he could be an affordable addition on a three- or four-year deal. Read more

  • Report: SKA St. Petersburg president says team is in talks with Datsyuk

    Jared Clinton
    Pavel Datsyuk (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Pavel Datsyuk said he wants to make his departure from the NHL as easy as possible for everyone involved, but that might not be limited to those in the Detroit Red Wings’ front office.

    According to Sport-Express.ru’s Igor Eronko, SKA president Gennady Timchenko has said the club has already begun negotiations for a deal with Datsyuk, and said he believes St. Petersburg has “a good chance to sign (Datsyuk).” Timchenko’s confidence in signing Datsyuk comes shortly after his agent, Dan Milstein, had to shoot down a report that the veteran center had signed a two-year deal with SKA.

    When reports of the contract with SKA surfaced, Milstein told The Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan that it was “inaccurate,” and Milstein added that neither he nor Datsyuk had spoken to any teams or any media about the current Red Wings’ future. Milstein has reiterated that numerous times, but reports continue to surface that Datsyuk has at least started potential contract negotiations. Read more

  • Mitch Marner is destroying the Memorial Cup, so what can we expect from him next season?

    Mitch Marner (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

    The London Knights are steamrolling the competition at the Memorial Cup and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner is leading the way, just as he did in the OHL playoffs. All told, the right winger has 57 points in his past 21 games (13 in three Memorial Cup wins). Add in the 116 points he had during the regular season and you’ve got a weaponized threat on the ice.

    The Knights have already clinched a spot in the Memorial Cup final thanks to a 3-0 record (in which they have outscored their opponents 20-5), so with one game left on the docket for the team, it’s hard not to speculate what Marner’s future holds next season.

    So let’s speculate, shall we?

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  • Watch Boyle pick corner for second goal of Game 6, blow kiss to Lightning bench

    Jared Clinton
    Brian Boyle (via NHL.com)

    If Brian Boyle hadn’t already shown his worth to the Tampa Bay Lightning in terms of being a checking-line center, he’s showing this post-season that he also has the ability to make things happen offensively and that he can even add a little flair.

    In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final, the Lightning were trailing 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins heading into the final frame. Tampa Bay carried the play from the outset of the third period in an attempt to get anything going offensively, and eventually it was Boyle who would break through, although fortuitously as his shot from the right wing boards would deflect off of Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel and into the net.

    But for as lucky as Boyle’s first goal was, his second tally made Boyle look like a bonafide sniper. Again on the right wing, Boyle managed to pick up a bouncing puck that was thrown cross-ice by defenseman Slater Koekkoek, settle it and fire home a seeing-eye shot that went perfectly into the top corner. And then Boyle gave us the best celebration of the post-season, blowing a kiss to the Tampa Bay bench. Seriously: Read more

  • Top Nine Golf Gifts for Him

    The Hockey News
    goltown

    *ADVERTORIAL*


     

    June is the perfect time to give the gift of golf. Whether it’s a present for a new graduate or for Dad on Father’s Day (or, hey, even yourself), Golf Town has it. Here are nine must-haves for guys who hit the links.

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    Hit the Sweet Spot

    This driver’s lightweight carbon composite crown packs the power, and the massive sweet spot keeps every shot right on target. An adjustable loft sleeve and multiple shaft options make it a custom-style club for a less-than-custom price.

    TaylorMade M2 Driver, $499.99

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  • Sidney Crosby, Penguins down Lightning to force Game 7

    Sidney Crosby.

    The Eastern Conference final is going the distance.

    Sidney Crosby’s beautiful second-period goal held up as the winner in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6. Crosby has scored the winning goal in all three of the Penguins wins in the series.

    On Tuesday, his winner came on a great individual effort as he got the puck in the neutral zone, danced through the Lightning defense and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy.

    The goal made it 3-0 and the Penguins seemed to be cruising. But Brian Boyle scored twice early in the third period make things interesting. Just as Penguins fans were getting nervous, Bryant Rust scored on a breakaway late to put the game out of reach.

    The complexion of the game, and indeed the series, could have changed dramatically if a Lightning goal wasn’t called back early in the first period. A Jonathan Drouin goal five minutes into the game was called back after the Penguins challenged. Drouin was ruled offside on the play, thanks to the now-controversial ruling that his skate was in the zone despite it being in the air.

    Phil Kessel scored his ninth goal of the playoffs on a power play later in the first after the Lightning were penalized for the dreaded puck-over-glass delay of game and the Pens were on their way to the win.

    It was the second year in a row the Lighting failed to win Game 6 of the East final at home. Last year, they rebounded to beat the Rangers in Game 7 and advance to the Stanley Cup final. The Penguins present a more formidable challenge.

    There shouldn’t be a goaltending controversy after the Penguins wisely went back to youngster Matt Murray for Game 6. He was solid, making 28 saves and leaving no doubt he should be the man for the Penguins the rest of the way.

    While it would make a great narrative don’t expect injured Lightning stars Steven Stamkos or Ben Bishop to ride in to save the day in Game 7. Both players have been skating and improving but won’t be ready for Thursday.