• Should refs let more go during crunch time? 2016 playoff data suggests they likely are

    Jason Kay
    Florida's Reilly Smith had a chance to clinch Game 6 against the Islanders, but Nick Leddy saved the day, and arguably got away with a trip in the process. (Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

    After watching the final minutes of regulation of Game 6 in the Islanders-Panthers first round series, I was all ready to perch my soap box atop my high horse, which was balancing on my ivory tower.

    With New York’s net empty in the dying moments, there were two trips that could have been called – one on Vincent Trocheck, the other Reilly Smith – infractions that either negated Panthers’ chances to seal the game, or at least given the Islanders a penalty. You could argue there was a tad of embellishment on the Smith fall, but it was borderline. Instead of a minor being called in either instance, the refs “let them play” and we all know the result.

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  • 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs second-round preview: St. Louis Blues vs. Dallas Stars

    DAL_vs_STL_644x427

    DALSTL

    SERIES STARTS: Friday, 8 p.m. ET, in Dallas.

    THE BLUES WIN IF…

    St. Louis conquered its white whale. Now what? It was a monumental accomplishment for the franchise to finally oust the Joel Quenneville-era Chicago Blackhawks after three straight seasons of first-round exits, all after the Blues had dominant regular seasons. The key now is to use the victory as a springboard into newfound glory instead of an emotional triumph that drains all their energy. The Blues must be wary of a letdown in Game 1 on the road. If they can shrug off the potential adrenaline dump, they’re in good shape.

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  • Watch Penguins’ Bonino undress the Capitals defense to set up Lovejoy goal

    Jared Clinton
    Nick Bonino (via NHL)

    Pittsburgh center Nick Bonino was one of the most effective Penguins forwards in the first round, registering five assists in five games against the New York Rangers, and he wasn’t about to let the Washington Capitals slow him down in Game 1 of the second round.

    With the Penguins down 1-0 midway through the second period, Bonino picked up a puck in the Pittsburgh zone before making a bank pass to start a breakout. The puck got moved into the neutral zone, where Carl Hagelin flipped a short backhander to Bonino, who skated into the pass and attacked the Capitals defense with speed.

    Washington defenseman Nate Schmidt saw a chance to level Bonino, but he escaped the hit, slipped the puck around Capitals blueliner Dmitry Orlov, and watched as Schmidt crashed into his defense partner. With both blueliners down, Bonino fired low on Capitals netminder Braden Holtby, and Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy swatted the rebound home: Read more

  • Updated: Tom Wilson gets maximum fine for knee-on-knee hit on Conor Sheary

    Jared Clinton
    Tom Wilson hits Conor Sheary (via NHL/Streamable)

    Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson has a knack for getting under the skin of opponents, and he definitely falls into the category of players that are beloved by their own team but hated by opponents. But in being a pest, Wilson plays on the edge and he may have crossed the line in Game 1 of the second round.

    In the third period of Thursday’s game, Wilson was heading for a line change while approaching Pittsburgh Penguins winger Conor Sheary. As Sheary moved the deflected the puck into the Washington zone, Wilson continued to speed toward Sheary. The Penguins rookie braced for contact, but Wilson moved out of the way and instead went knee-on-knee with Sheary before being pulled off the ice by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin: Read more

  • T.J. Oshie scores hat trick goal in overtime to lift Capitals to Game 1 victory

    Jared Clinton
    T.J. Oshie celebrates his overtime winner (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

    The 2009 second-round series between the Penguins and Capitals stands up as one of the most memorable post-lockout playoff matchups. That series featured three games that went to overtime and five one-goal games in a series that went seven games before Pittsburgh emerged victorious. With that series in mind, 2016’s second-round meeting between the two clubs had a lot to live up to. However, if Game 1 is any indication, the two sides shouldn’t have any problem meeting or surpassing the hype.

    And it’s fitting that in a series most remembered for a game with duelling hat tricks from Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, the 2016 meeting opened with a hat trick that will be remembered and talked about for some time. But it wasn’t Crosby or Ovechkin who found the back of the net three times Thursday. It was T.J. Oshie, and he picked the perfect time to score the his third tally to complete the hat trick: overtime.

    Each of Oshie’s goals on the night were great, too. The first came on a perfect shot over the glove of Penguins goaltender Matt Murray, the second on a deke that slipped under Murray’s pad and the third on a wraparound that didn’t come without controversy. Oshie’s overtime winner came as he showed an incredible bit of patience to pull Murray out of position before slipping around the back of the net and tucking the puck in the far side. But the wraparound barely — seriously, it’s by no more than a quarter of an inch — crossed the goal line. Read more

  • Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist, but Kopitar, Kesler stand in the way of three-peat

    Jared Clinton
    Patrice Bergeron (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Boston’s Patrice Bergeron will have a shot at the Selke Trophy three-peat — and his fourth nod as the league’s best defensive forward — but Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar and Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler will stand in his way.

    The NHL announced the Selke finalists Thursday night with Bergeron, Kopitar and Kesler as the top three vote-getters for the award given to “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.” Both Bergeron and Kesler have won the award before, but Kopitar, who has been a finalist in each of the past two seasons, has never taken home the hardware.

    Unlike other awards that can be judged off of pure statistics, the voting for Selke can be a lot more vague. Really, each of the three have good cases for the award. Read more

  • 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs second-round preview: San Jose Sharks vs. Nashville Predators

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    SJNSH

    SERIES STARTS: Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET, in San Jose.

    THE SHARKS WIN IF…

    The Sharks weren’t the popular pick in their first round series against the Kings, but Los Angeles was dismantled in five games by San Jose. The Sharks were considered the third-most likely of the three Pacific Division entries into the post-season to win the Stanley Cup, and now they’re the last team from the division standing. They’ve put the rest of the Western Conference on notice as they head to Round Two for a date with the Nashville Predators.

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  • If Ducks fire Boudreau, who coaches them next? And who hires him?

    Matt Larkin
    Bruce Boudreau. (Getty Images)

    (Update: The Ducks officially fired Boudreau on Friday.)

    There’s an elephant in the Ducks’ room. Bruce Boudreau is about to become a scapegoat. Perhaps replaced by a walrus.

    We don’t know yet for sure, but an endorsement from Anaheim Ducks ownership and/or GM Bob Murray for their coach would be awfully surprising. Boudreau, after all, just fell to 1-7 in Game 7s for his career. He couldn’t get his team motivated to start the first period Wednesday night against Nashville. That problem has plagued him throughout his career in Game 7s. He also couldn’t get his Ducks to adjust and start working the puck down low when the Predators completely clogged the front of their net, protecting goalie Pekka Rinne as Secret Service agents would the president.

    Boudreau is good coach. He’s an offensive wizard, regularly fielding teams who score at will. He’s a turnaround artist who can take over a new team and convert it from an also-ran into a regular season juggernaut and playoff contender quickly. But, fair or not, it’s a cold, hard fact he continuously fails to win The Big One. He’ll likely have to fall on the sword. This stacked Ducks team really doesn’t need much, save perhaps for one more good goal scorer, so what else can it do besides try a different coach? Franchise pillars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry turn 31 next month. They’re still young enough to be impact NHLers and fuel a championship team, but their window is closing rapidly. Their best years are likely behind them now, so the Ducks must act swiftly to boot their odds of a 2017 Cup run. That probably means trying a new bench boss.

    Who are the best candidates to replace Boudreau if he’s fired? And what are Boudreau’s options in his next search for gainful employment?

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