It was celebration time for the Kings after Dustin Penner's series-winning overtime goal in Game 5 against the Coyotes in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Author: The Hockey News
Kings' power play only question mark after Game 5 win books ticket to Stanley Cup
By: Ken Campbell
May 23, 2012
The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN's take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there's the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn't get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
KINGS/COYOTES, GAME 5: KINGS 4, COYOTES 3 (KINGS WIN SERIES 4-1)
THN'S TAKE: We now know the Los Angeles Kings will have a full week off before they play their next game. The only question that remains, aside from which side of the Hudson River they’ll visit, is whether or not Kings captain Dustin Brown will get to cool his heels even longer.
You’d have to think the knee that took out Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Michal Rozsival, just seconds before Dustin Penner decided he wanted to finally make an impact on the scoreboard in this series, will at the very least be closely examined by Brendan Shanahan’s office.
(As an aside here, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly was booed by the crowd in Phoenix when he presented the Clarence Campbell Bowl to the Kings. Perhaps they’re unaware that Daly, who took on billionaire Jim Balsillie in the fight for the Coyotes, is the person most responsible for their team still playing in Glendale.)
The Coyotes gave it a valiant effort in this series and maybe, just maybe, exposed a little chink in the Kings armor, but they were simply not enough to stack up to the undisputed best team so far in this year’s playoffs. It marks the first time in 19 years the Kings have made it to the Stanley Cup final and if they have any aspirations of winning it all, they’d best find a way to improve their power play, which is the only real shortcoming in their game at the moment.
Aside from that, the Kings enter the Stanley Cup final on some kind of offensive roll, with contributions coming from all corners of the lineup. Goalie Jonathan Quick didn’t even have to be very good in this series after being all-world in the first two rounds.
If the Kings end up playing the New Jersey Devils, it will be interesting to see two high-flying teams (at least by today’s standards) go at each other with everything they’ve got in a bid for the Cup. If the Kings end up playing the Rangers, it will be, uh, interesting, yeah, interesting, to see how Los Angeles’ offense performs against a team that seems to want to turn this year’s playoffs into a defend-a-thon.
The Kings, as is the silly custom among most NHL players, refused to touch the Campbell Bowl when it was presented to them. The way they’ve played since mid-April, there’s a good chance they’ll get an opportunity to put their hands on the Stanley Cup in the next month. Regardless of whether they face the Devils or the Rangers, they’ll open on the road. No trouble, seeing as they’re 8-0 away from the Staples Center in these playoffs.
The Coyotes? Well, now they get to go back to more mundane off-ice matters such as ownership issues and whether or not they’ll play another game in the desert.
1. Drew Doughty: He was a cauldron of emotion in overtime and it could have very well gotten the better of him, but he spent much of the game being brilliant at both ends of the ice.
2. Taylor Pyatt: It was time for the Coyotes lesser lights to step up and Pyatt did just that with a goal and an assist.
3. Anze Kopitar: He tipped in Doughty’s point shot to tie the score in the first period and led all forwards on both teams in ice time with 30:24.
Penguins’ Murray broke hand at World Cup, will miss start of season
By: Jared Clinton
Sep 24, 2016
Marc-Andre Fleury will take the starting job for the Penguins to start the season, but under some unfortunate circumstances as Matt Murray suffered a broken hand during North America’s game against Russia at the World Cup.
The Pittsburgh Penguins might be thankful they didn’t ship out veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury ahead of the coming campaign after Matt Murray’s sparkling post-season run, because when the season starts, the young netminder will find himself on the sideline.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford announced Saturday that Murray, 22, suffered a broken hand during round robin play for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey. The injury is enough that Murray will almost certainly be out for the entirety of the pre-season, and the 3-6 week timeline for recovery could potentially see Murray miss the first month of the regular season. Just how severe the injury is, though, hasn’t yet been determined. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey, Rutherford said Murray has yet to meet with Penguins doctors.
If Murray is sidelined for the whole six weeks, he could miss the entire month of October and a dozen or more games. If the injury persists beyond the six week period, there’s a possibility he could miss an additional three games in the first week of November.
Murray’s injury came during North America’s tilt against Russia on Sept. 19, a game that Murray started but did not finish after allowing four goals on 19 shots in a 4-3 loss. All four goals against Murray came in little more than six minutes of action.
The exact moment Murray suffered the injury is hard to pinpoint, but he said post-game that it was only a minor injury and he had simply “jammed his thumb,” according to the Canadian Press. The injury was taped during the Sept. 19 game and Murray did continue to practice after suffering the ailment. However, he didn’t suit up in North America’s final game of the tournament, watching on as the young guns team closed out their tournament with a thrilling 4-3 overtime win against Sweden.
Murray was set to push Fleury for the starting gig this season, and there was a chance Murray could once again overtake his veteran counterpart for the bulk of the starts, just as he did during the post-season. Murray was remarkable in the playoffs, posting a 15-6 record, 2.08 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and one shutout en route to hoisting the Stanley Cup in his rookie season.
Murray’s performance in the playoffs shouldn’t have come as much of a shock, however. He showed signs of his incredible talent throughout his rookie year in the AHL — he was the league’s top goaltender and rookie of the year in 2014-15 — and posted a 9-2-1 record, 2.00 GAA and .930 SP with one shutout in 13 appearances during the regular seasons for the Penguins.
With Murray on the shelf, though, the Penguins will turn to Fleury as their definite No. 1. There are much worse hands to be dealt than that. Fleury was one of the Penguins best players during a difficult first half of the season under former coach Mike Johnston, and Fleury continued to excel under Mike Sullivan.
Fleury had to battle through concussion issues during the 2015-16 campaign, but he managed to post a stellar 35-17-6 record, 2.29 GAA and .921 SP to go along with five shutouts. Statistically, it was one of the best seasons of Fleury’s career, and it came in the first season of his new four-year, $23-million deal.
Murray’s injury will also have an impact on the backup situation in Pittsburgh, as one of Tristan Jarry or Sean Maguire will almost certainly be brought up as insurance for Fleury while Murray is out of action.
Down Goes Brown: Five times a team avenged a round robin loss at the World Cup
By: Sean McIndoe
Sep 21, 2016
The history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped, so don't worry just yet. Unless you're Team USA.
We're two games into the round robin portion of the World Cup, and we've already seen a handful of upsets, with favorites like Russia and the United States already tasting defeat, and in the case of the Americans, already being eliminated. With one game to go and some of the four playoff spots still up for grabs, fans around the world are no doubt panicking over the games their teams let get away.
But while the round robin is obviously important – you have to make the playoffs to win the whole thing – it's worth remembering that the results of individual games don't necessarily tell us much as much as we might think about what will happen in the playoff rounds.
In fact, the history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped down the line. So in an effort to calm some nerves, here are five times that overreacting to a round robin result would have steered you wrong once the eliminations games began.
1976: Czechoslovakia 1 – Canada 0
In the first ever round robin game in Canada Cup history, Canada made a statement by crushing Finland 11-2. They went on the beat Sweden and the U.S., and they closed out the round with a win over their arch-rivals from the Soviet Union, winning those three games by a combined score of 11-3.
But in between, they dropped a surprising decision to Czechoslovakia. Vladimir Dzurilla outduelled Rogie Vachon at the Montreal Forum, turning aside all 29 shots he faced in a 1-0 win. The game was an instant classic, described at the time as one of the best ever played.
The two teams finished at the top of round robin standings, setting up a best-of-three final. But there was no repeat of Dzurilla's heroics – Team Canada blitzed him for four goals in the first period of the opening game, sending him to the bench and paving the way for a lopsided 6-0 win. Game 2 was more entertaining, with Canada jumping out to a 2-0 lead just three minutes in before a Czechoslovakian comeback set the stage for Darryl Sittler's tournament winner in overtime.
1981: Canada 7 – Soviet Union 3
By 1981, the Soviet Union was coming off a relatively rough stretch of international play. They'd won their usual Olympic gold in 1972 and 1976, but been upset by Team USA's Miracle on Ice squad in 1980, lost the 1972 Summit Series, and failed to even make the final of the 1976 Canada Cup.
When they met Canada in 1981 in the final game of the round robin, both teams were undefeated and battling for first place. The game was tied at 2-2 heading into the third, but Canada erupted for five straight goals in what ended up being a 7-3 laugher. Even with star goaltender Vladislav Tretiak sitting out due to illness, the result was an embarrassing one for the Soviets.
Both teams won their semifinal game to advance to a one-game winner-take-all final in Montreal. With Tretiak back in goal, most fans expected a closer game. Instead, they got an even bigger blowout. But this time, it was the Soviets who ran up the score, earning an 8-1 win and handing Canada what still stands to this day as its most embarrassing international loss.
1984: Soviet Union 6 – Canada 3
Three years after their impressive win, the Soviets looked even more dominant through the round robin portion of the 1984 tournament. Heading into a final game showdown against a struggling Team Canada, they were sporting a 4-0-0 record and looking to wrap up the tournament's top seed. They went on to smother their rivals in an impressive 6-3 win, finishing the round robin with a perfect record and dropping Canada down to fourth place.
That set up another meeting between the two nations in the tournament semi-final, held just three days later in Calgary. After being held to just 17 shots in the round robin, Canada exploded for 41 in the rematch. But Soviet goaltender Vladimir Myshkin stood on his head, and had his team in position to win with a 2-1 lead late in regulation. It took a late goal by Doug Wilson to set up overtime, where Paul Coffey's lunging breakup of a Soviet 2-on-1 set the stage of Mike Bossy's sudden death winner.
Canada went on to sweep Sweden in the final to claim the tournament. It marked the third straight time that the eventual Canada Cup champion had avenged a round robin loss on the way to their title.
1987: Czechoslovakia 4 – Canada 4; Sweden 5 – Soviet Union 3
The 1987 Canada Cup marked the first time that the eventual champion went undefeated through the round robin. That would be Canada, who beat the Soviets in a three-game classic punctuated by Mario Lemieux's historic winner.
But while Canada didn't have any losses to avenge on their way to the title, they weren't perfect in the round robin. And the first blemish came in their opening game, when a rusty Canadian squad blew a third period lead on their way to a 4-4 tie with Czechoslovakia. That was a disappointing result against a team that had gone 0-4-1 in the previous tournament, and raised questions as to whether Canada could defend their crown. Meanwhile, the tournament's other favorite had a disappointing opening of their own, as the Soviets gave up three goals in the first eight minutes while dropping a 5-3 decisions to Sweden.
Both powerhouses recovered well, with each winning three straight before facing each other in the round robin finale and skating to a 3-3 draw. That set up a pair of semifinal rematches, with Canada facing Czechoslovakia and the Soviets drawing Sweden.
This time, the favorites took care of business. Canada started slowly but pumped home four straight goals to take a 5-3 final, while the Soviets jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before eliminating Sweden by a 4-2 score. That set the stage for a final that still stands as perhaps the best international hockey series ever played.
As a side note, the Czechoslovakian goaltender for both of those games against Canada was a 22-year-old kid that most North Americans had never heard of. He eventually made it to the NHL three years later, and turned out to be pretty good. He even got some revenge against Canada at an international tournament over a decade later.
2004: Russia 3 – USA 1; Sweden 4 – Czech Republic 3
Canada didn't have to avenge any round robin losses on their way to the 1991 title, and the United States likewise was a perfect 3-0-0 under the new World Cup format before winning it all in 1996. Canada repeated that feat in 2004, making it four straight Canada/World Cups that have been won by a team that didn't suffer a loss during the round robin. Yes, that's right – it's now been 32 years and counting since a team lost a round robin game and still managed to win this tournament. Wait, this is supposed to be about giving teams that lost in the round robin hope. Forget everything I just mentioned.
But we can still find a couple of revenge games in the 2004 round robin, thanks to that year's, um, interesting format. The tournament featured eight teams, and the playoff round featured… eight teams. Yes, everyone made the playoffs in 2004, with the round robin settling the seeding and nothing else.
That format actually gave us a few interesting moments, like top-seeded Finland needing a goal in the dying minutes to edge winless Germany 2-1. And it also set up a pair of interesting rematches. In the round robin, the defending champion Team USA had dropped its first two games, to Canada and Russia. In the latter game, they fell 3-1 while being outshot 45-21. The 0-2 start didn't hurt their playoff hopes, because of the whole "everyone makes it" thing, but it certainly put a dent in their confidence.
Meanwhile, the Czechs dropped their opener 4-0 to Finland, then fell behind by the same score to Sweden. They came back to at least make that game a respectable 4-3 final, but other than running up the score on Germany in the finale, they didn't come out of the round robin with much room for optimism.
But in the opening round, both teams got a chance at payback, and both took it. The Czechs looked like a different team, shelling Mikael Tellqvist and Team Sweden in a 6-1 win. The Russia/Team USA rematch was a closer affair, with both teams going back and forth, but the Americans held on for a 5-3 win.
Both teams went on to lose in the semifinal, although the U.S. blew a late lead against Finland and the Czechs took Canada to overtime. Canada beat Finland in the one-game final, the year-long NHL lockout began the next day, and the World Cup hasn't been seen since. Twelve years later, we're finally getting another look at the tournament, and another chance to see a tough round robin loss avenged in the playoffs.
At least, that's what teams like Russia, Finland and North America are hoping.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
Rumor Roundup: How the Blues can get Rick Nash from the Rangers
By: Lyle Richardson
Sep 21, 2016
If the Rangers and Blues are still interested in a Nash-for-Shattenkirk trade, the Blues may have found a way to fit Nash's salary on to their books.
A contract dispute with the St. Louis Blues led center Vladimir Sobotka to spend the past two seasons playing in Russia. The 29-year-old reportedly intends to use his out-clause with KHL team Avangard Omsk to return to the Blues in 2016-17
Those plans, however, apparently hit a snag. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Avangard Omsk seeks a fee from Sobotka which he's yet to pay. His agent, Petr Svoboda, is still negotiating his release.
If Sobotka is unable to return to the Blues this season, Rutherford's colleague Jeff Gordon suggests the Blues use the savings to offset some of the cost of acquiring winger Rick Nash and his $7.8 million salary-cap hit from the New York Rangers. Gordon cites the Rangers rumored interest in Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who's an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The “Shattenkirk-for-Nash” rumor isn't anything new, frequently surfacing over the course of the summer. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong reportedly shopped the 27-year-old blueliner in late-June but didn't find any suitable offers. TSN's Darren Dreger still believes Shattenkirk is a trade target, but doesn't believe it's a “front-burner” issue right now.
For now, Armstrong appears intent on keeping Stattenkirk for the start of the season. Whether the puck-moving rearguard is moved depends upon the Blues roster needs over the course of this campaign and their position in the standings before the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
If Shattenkirk hits the trade block, there will be considerable interest in his services. Along with the Rangers, the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils could be among the suitors.
While Shattenkirk lacks a no-trade clause, his UFA status at season's end is a stumbling block. Rutherford claims interested clubs want to know if he'll agree to a contract extension before pursuing a trade. He said Shattenkirk's unwillingness to sign an extension with the Edmonton Oilers killed a possible deal that would've shipped left winger Taylor Hall to St. Louis. The Oilers instead dealt Hall to the Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson.
OILERS HAVE INTEREST IN KRIS RUSSELL
The status of unrestricted free agent defenseman Kris Russell is attracting interest in the rumor mill. The Edmonton Journal's David Staples cites a TSN report claiming the Edmonton Oilers were discussing a short-term contract with the 29-year-old rearguard.
TSN's Bob McKenzie believes Russell could be a decent short-term fit with the Oilers, who still need experienced depth among their top-four blueliners. Earlier this summer, the shot-blocking specialist reportedly sought a five-year deal. McKenzie believes he'll accept a one-year contract, perhaps seeking between $4-$5 million.
The Oilers aren't the only club the Russell camp have spoken with in recent weeks. McKenzie claims they've talked to as many as eight NHL teams. It's rumored the Calgary Flames, who dealt Russell to the Dallas Stars at last season's trade deadline, would like to bring him back. However, they've also got to re-sign restricted free agent star winger Johnny Gaudreau.
It could cost around $7 million per season to get Gaudreau under contract. With $7.9 million in cap space, that won't leave much room for the Flames to pursue Russell unless they make a cost-cutting deal.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
Author: (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)
Is Alexander Steen's four-year, $23-million extension wise for the Blues?
By Matt Larkin
Sep 23, 2016
Alexander Steen is a key member of the Blues' core. But will they regret paying him almost $6 million through his 37th birthday given his recent injury history?
Alexander Steen wasn't healthy enough to compete for Sweden at the World Cup. He's evidently healthy enough to remain a major NHL contributor for five more seasons, though. That's the message his St. Louis Blues sent Friday when they announced his four-year, $23-million extension. It carries a $5.75-million cap hit and pays him through the end of the 2020-21 season. Per Blues beat writer and THN correspondent Jeremy Rutherford, the contract is front loaded, paying Steen $7 million in Years 1 and 2, $5.5 million in Year 3 and $3.5 million in Year 4.
The deal makes a decent amount of sense from a pure, immediate hockey standpoint. Steen has been a key contributor to the Blues ever since they fleeced the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008 and landed him with Carlo Colaiacovo for Lee Stempniak. Steen is versatile, capable of playing left wing or center. He kills penalties. He plays 20 minutes a night. He's a good possession player. He's one of the more underrated players of the last few years, really. Over the past three seasons, he ranks 25th in the NHL in points per game at 0.852, ahead of Matt Duchene, Jakub Voracek, Phil Kessel, Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Toews, to list just a handful of big names. Steen is 23rd in goals per game at 0.354.
Retaining him is a nice morale booster for St. Louis' fan base, too, since captain David Backes left for Boston as a free agent after he and the Blues couldn't agree on the length of his contract. Steen is one of the team's leaders and the second-oldest forward on the roster after Scottie Upshall. Even if this team now belongs to the young crop, including Vladimir Tarasenko, Robby Fabbri, Colton Parayko and Jake Allen, it's nice to have a wily 200-foot player like Steen on board to rally the troops.
There's no denying what Steen brings when he's on the ice. But does that justify the financial commitment St. Louis just made? It's debatable. Steen scores at a top-25 rate over the past three years, yes, but he also averages just 69.7 games over that span. He has missed at least 14 games four different times over his 11 seasons. He's sustained multiple concussions in his career. He dislocated his shoulder this past February and returned after 15 games, but the shoulder required off-season surgery. The June procedure put Steen on a four-to-six-month timeline, knocking him out of the World Cup.
Steen is a tough son of a gun, having played through the injury during the 2016 playoffs, and he's hoping to return to the Blues lineup in October. But that doesn't change the fact Steen is (a) quite injury prone at this stage of his career; (b) 32 years old; and (c) proud owner of a shiny new contract that commences in 2017-18 and pays him until he's 37.
Steen is an easy player to like. The contract is tough to like. At the same time, GM Doug Armstrong's hands may have been tied. Waiting all season could've created distraction and friction if Steen was set to hit the open market in 2017. It's not like he's 35 now, so asking for a multi-year pact wasn't unrealistic. Steen is almost guaranteed to decline steadily over the course of his extension, but the Blues did what they had to do to keep him. It was lose an important player or give him a slightly longer contract than they probably wanted to.