Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pageau's 4th Goal in Double Overtime Gives Ottawa 2-0 Lead over Rangers

The Ottawa Senators rode Jean-Gabriel Pageau's hot hand late in regulation and then again in double overtime to notch a 6-5 win and take a commanding 2-0 series lead over the New York Rangers.

Pageau, who scored 12 goals in the regular season, now has five goals in eight games in the playoffs. None have been bigger than the one that beat Henrik Lundqvist at 2:54 of the second overtime to cap an improbable comeback for the Senators. The 24-year-old Ottawa native also tallied twice in a 2:17 span late in the third to tie the game.

The Rangers, who got a pair of goals from defenseman Brady Skjei, had three two-goal leads but could not hang on late. Pageau sealed his second career playoff hat-trick at 18:58 of the third with a deflection of a Kyle Turris one-timer from the side of the net. Just over two minutes early Pageau had brought the Senators within a goal with a similar tip-in goal from the goalmouth.

In the first overtime Mark Stone had a brilliant chance to score the winner but his shot at a wide-open net caromed off a Ranger defender and over the net. Rick Nash had a great chance for the Rangers after Craig Anderson turned the puck over but Turris made an incredible play to thwart Nash.

Game 3 will take place at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

Clarke MacArthur Leaves Game 2 after Hit from McDonagh

Clarke MacArthur took an open-ice hit from Ryan McDonagh during Game 2 of the Senators series against the Rangers at Canadian Tire Center and he has left the game. He was not down on the ice for any extended time and continued to play after the hit, taking three shifts before after the hit before he left the ice.

MacArthur returned to action on April 4 after spending two seasons mostly out of the lineup (out since October 14 of 2015) due to post-concussion symptons. He has been an emotional leader for the Senators down the stretch and scored the series-clinching overtime winner in Game 6 against the Bruins in the first round.

The team has not updated on MacArthur's status yet.

UPDATE: The injury is apparently not related to MacArthur's past concussion history, which is good news.

Oilers Survive Late Ducks Onslaught to Take 2-0 Series Lead

Oilers sniper Connor McDavid may have said it best after the Oilers notched a tense 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night at Honda Center.

"100 percent a steal," he said. "I don't think we deserved to get that win but we did just enough to get it -- Cam [Talbot] was great as always.

Talbot made 39 saves, including 16 in a third period that was thoroughly dominated by Anaheim, to preserve a 2-1 lead and give the Oilers a commanding lead.

Andrej Sekera opened the scoring with a bullet from the blue line at 1:05 of the first and Patrick Maroon added a greasy power play goal to make it 2-0 at 6:41 of the second. Anaheim has now allowed nine power play goals in six playoff games, including three in the first two games of this series.

In desperation mode, the Ducks tilted the ice in their favor for the remainder of the game. Jacob Silfverberg scored a power play goal at 15:34 of the second to bring them within a goal and they kept up furious intensity from that point on but the only pucks they were able to get behind Talbot ended up hitting iron.

That happened twice.

A Cam Fowler shot was tipped by Patrick Eaves and leaked past Talbot before clanging the post; Fowler would ring another off the post moments later. Josh Manson shot one off of Talbot's mask and there were plenty of other chances for the Duucks to tie it.

In the end Edmonton was sturdy and steady enough to get the win. It wasn't pretty but as McDavid said, they'll take it.

Game 3 is Sunday night in Edmonton.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Tarasenko Nets a Pair and Blues Level with Predators

Vladimir Tarasenko had his biggest game of the playoffs and it came at the right time for the St. Louis Blues. The Russian scored a pair, including the game-winner at 16:09 of the third period to give the Blues a 3-2 win over the Predators. The victory levels the team's best-of-7 series at a game apiece. Game 3 is on Sunday afternoon in Nashville.

Tarasenko's first goal tied the score at one in the first. It came with the Blues enjoying a 5-minute power play after Colton Parayko took a knee-to-knee hit from Vernon Fiddler. Parayko finished the game no worse for the wear, logging 22:57 of ice time and notching an assist on Lehtera's goal.

Nashville went ahead on a Ryan Ellis goal in the second, but the Blues tied it just over four minutes later when Jori Lehtera connected for his first of the playoffs.

Tarasenko now has three goals in seven playoff games, and 22 goals in 40 games for his post-season career, which ranks him third all-time among Blues.

Blues Move Barbashev in for Paajarvi for Game 2

Ivan Barbashev will get a second chance in the St. Louis Blues' lineup after being a healthy scratch for the last two playoff games.

The 21-year-old Russian played the first four games of the Wild series, getting top-line minutes with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz.

Magnus Paajarvi, the man who scored the series-clinching OT winner for the Blues in Game 5, will sit.

Blues coach Mike Yeo says he was eager to give Barbashev another chance in the lineup to see what he can do. Jori Lehtera, who was scratched in games two, three and four of the Wild series, came in to replace Barbashev and has remained in the lineup.

Here's his thoughts on the matter, via Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

"We like to give players a chance to respond and a chance to get back in there when they come out of the lineup. We saw what that did for (Lehtera). This is in no way anything against Magnus. We're very grateful and appreciative of what he's done and very confident in what he can do for us. But Barbie's been a good player for us for a long time too. Having him out of the lineup, he'll be energized, he brings a physical element but there's more to his game than just that. He has the ability to make plays, he plays with a conscience as far as how he plays without the puck. But when he gets the puck in the offensive zone, he has a chance to create something. And so we'll see what he can do here tonight."

According to Rutherford, Barbashev is likely to skate on the wing on a line with Lehtera and Vladimir Sobotka.

Stepan Says His Game Stinks in Playoffs

Derek Stepan is not a fan of Derek Stepan right now.

The Rangers center has just an empty-net goal and two points to show for seven playoff games for the Rangers, and he's been struggling in the face-off circle as well with a percentage of just 41.8 thus far in the playoffs. It all adds up to some disappointment from the 26-year-old.

"I've stunk since the playoffs started," he told Dan Rosen of

Where did he learn that type of talk from, John Tortorella?

At least he's honest, and there is plenty of hockey left to play for the Rangers and Stepan. After last night's 2-1 loss to the Senators at Canadian Tire Center, the Rangers trail their best-of-7 series with Ottawa, 1-0. Game 2 is Saturday.

Stepan has 45 points in 92 career playoff games. He was the Rangers third-leading scorer in the regular season with 55 points.

Bieksa out, Vatanen Uncertain for Ducks in Game 2

The Anaheim Ducks will be without defenseman Kevin Bieksa for Game 2 of their best-of-7 series with the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night at Honda Center, but Sami Vatanen could return.

Bieksa, who left Game 1 with an injury after colliding with teammate Shea Theodore, could be a available for the Ducks later in the series.

35-year-old Bieksa has four assists in five playoff games for the Ducks this season. He has 82 playoff games to his name.

Vatanen has been out since the first game of the playoffs with an upper body injury. He's been progressing and is thought to be close to a return. If he can't go, Korbinian Holzer will suit up as the sixth defenseman for Anaheim, which trails Edmonton 1-0 in the series.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Jake Allen Shoulders Blame for Blues Game 1 Loss to Nashville

What a difference a few days makes. St. Louis netminder Jake Allen tumbled down to earth with a thud on Wednesday night, hurting his team's cause in their 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators (see video above) by making this bad read and poke check attempt right before Vernon Fiddler nudged a loose puck between his legs to give the Predators the game-winning goal with 5:05 remaining in Game 1.

“Guys fought back great,” Allen said, according to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “A little mistake by me cost us.”

It was a rough moment at home for the Blues, who rode Allen to a 4-1 series victory over the Minnesota Wild in the first round. Allen stopped 174 of 182 shots in the five games against Minnesota. He stopped just 28 of 32 in Game 1 on Wednesday night.

Hindsight is 20-20. It also says that Allen would have been able to handle whatever Fiddler threw at him on that play if he did not go for the poke-check. Allen made a bad read, late in a game, and it cost his team a goal at a crucial time after they had battled back from 3-1 down to level the game in the third period.

If we're quick to praise Allen for all the great work he did in the Minnesota series, we have to call a spade a spade here.

But don't worry, his coach has Allen's back.

Mike Yeo appreciates his goalie's willingness to accept blame but told reporters that the Blues lost the game in the second period when they let Nashville take the game to them.

"I respect that he did that but he doesn't need to do that," said Yeo. "We dug ourselves a hole in that second period. ... the reality is the second period was not good enough and ultimately it cost us the game."

So, will Jake Allen return with his superman cape for Game 2? He's been one of the biggest stories of this year's playoffs, but there are many who are predicting that he will not be able to maintain his scorching-hot level.

Wayne Gretzky on McDavid vs. Kesler: Utilize Assets

Wayne Gretzky says that Connor McDavid doesn't need his advice on dealing with Ryan Kesler being his full-time shadow as the Oilers battle the Ducks in their best-of-7 second round series.

"That's part of the game," says Gretzky, who spend his whole career as the opponent's main target and was often shadowed by defensive specialists. "Playoffs are hard. Right now the Ducks are as good as anybody. Kesler's a leader of that and Getzlaf plays hard. It's a long series and there's a lot of hockey left. Tonight was just the beginning."

McDavid spent most of the night being shadowed by Anaheim's Ryan Kesler, but late in the game Ducks coach Randy Carlyle matched him up with Ryan Getzlaf. Carlyle didn't make much of the personnel shift--he told reporters that it had to do more with where the face-offs were than with who he wants to match up with the McDavid line after Game 1 on Wednesday.

"It was based upon where the face-offs were," he said. "It was more about getting offensive zone face-offs. Getzlaf I thought had a big game for us." No matter who is out there trailing him around, Gretzky says that McDavid has dealt with it all his whole career, and he'll be fine.

Gretzky says that Kesler ranks up there pretty high among the NHL's defensive centers. "Kesler is probably one of the best checkers that he's ever played against until this point and time in his career. You can't worry about it. You have to utilize your assets. For Connor his assets are obviously his hockey sense, his speed and his teammates and linemates. Right now [Leon] Draisaitl is playing about as well as anybody in the NHL and his teammates are contributing in a significant way."

McDavid finished with an assist and a plus-1 last night in 20:53 of total ice time for the Oilers. His linemate Draisaitl put up four points during Edmonton's 5-3 win.

"He doesn't get enought credit," McDavid said of the German last night. "I don't think people talk about him enough. This is a great opportunity for him to step right into the spotlight."

Boucher: Vegas Says Sens Don't Have a Chance

Are Guy Boucher and the Ottawa Senators using Las Vegas gambling odds as bulletin board material? Sounds like they are. Look at the wry smile on his face as he speaks about how is team is a huge underdog against the ultra-talented Rangers.

Sounds like he is enjoying every minute of it.

"I hear from everybody we don't seem to have much of a chance," said Boucher. "They're 10 to 1 in Vegas against us and everybody seems to think that they are going to roll over us, so I guess that they are a pretty good team."

Boucher will have no problem motivating his team for their upcoming best-of-7 series with the Rangers.

"Everbody is telling them how much stronger the opponent is, and everybody's telling them how we are not supposed to be a match for those guys. So I think understanding how good the opponent is is not a problem in that room -- they know."

Game 1 of the series is tonight at Canadian Tire Center.

Note: We're not into betting on hockey and have no idea what the odds of Ottawa actually winning the series are, but we do like Boucher's motivational tactics.

Fiala out for Season after Surgery to Repair Femur

Predators' rookie forward Kevin Fiala was coming into his own as a playoff sparkplug for Nashville, but his season has ended in the worst possible way. After last night's scary collision in the second period of the Predators 4-3 win over the Blues at Scotrade Center, Fiala underwent successful surgery to repair a fractured left femur.

Predators GM David Poile gave the following update on the team's website:

"He underwent successful surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis and is resting comfortably. He is extremely disappointed that he will not be able to help his teammates in their quest for the Stanley Cup, but is looking forward to starting his rehabilitation upon his return to Nashville. The Predators organization would like to thank the St. Louis Blues Medical Team, especially Head Trainer Ray Barile, Drs. Rick Wright and William Ricci, as well as the nurses and personnel at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital for their outstanding care."

Fiala had 16 points in 54 games in his rookie season with Nashville. He had two goals in the playoffs, including the OT winner in Game 3 of Nashville's four-game sweep over the Blackhawks.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Penalty Killing a Thorn in Ducks Side in Game 1 Loss

Poor penalty killing didn't hurt the Anaheim Ducks as they swept Calgary out of the first round but it came back to bite the Ducks as they fell to the Oilers 5-3 in Game 1 of their best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal on Wednesday at Honda Center.

Mark Letestu buried two power play goals to stake the Oilers to a 2-1 lead in the third period, and Edmonton surged on the momentum to stretch the lead to 3-1 less than two minutes later when defenseman Adam Larsson scored his first of two goals at 8:03 of the third.

The Ducks have now allowed 8 power play goals in 23 times shorthanded during the playoffs. During the regular season Anaheim was the 4th-best team on the penalty kill with a success rate of 84.7 percent.

"I think they won the specialty teams battle in the end and that probably was the difference in the game," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle after the loss. "Our penalty killing let them take some of the emotion and momentum in the hockey game and put it in their favor."

Cam Fowler made his return to the the ice after missing all four games in the first round due to a knee injury suffered in the final week of the season when he was hit by Calgary's Mark Giordano. He played 4:20 shorthanded.

Meanwhile, the Ducks lost defenseman Kevin Bieksa to a lower body injury and his status for Game 2 is currently unknown.

The Ducks rallied on two goals in 85 seconds by Patrick Eaves and Jacob Silfverberg, but let Adam Larsson strike for his second goal, a back-breaker aat 15:20 of the third period.

Larsson raced up the ice, carved his way into the Ducks zone and threw a puck into the crease from behind the net that caromed off of Josh Manson and into the net. Anaheim added an empty netter by Leon Draisaitl to ice the game at 18:55. Draisaitl had four points on the night.

"We didn't have our position in the neutral ice," said Carlyle of the Larsson goal. "There's no way we should allow Larsson to skate from the top of his circle into our zone unimpeded."

Game 2 of the series is Friday night in Anaheim. The Ducks had an 18-game streak without a regulation loss snapped tonight. Their last regulation loss came on March 10th.

Kevin Fiala Stretchered off after Dangerous Collision in Game 1

The Predators lost a key cog in their playoff push when Kevin Fiala collided into the end boards after being ridden in by Robert Bortuzzo early in the second period of Nashville's 4-3 win over the Blues at Scotrade Center in St. Louis.

Fiala, 20, scored 16 points in 54 games for the Predators in the regular season and added two goals in Nashville's four-game sweep of Chicago in the first round. Fiala went hard into the boards while trying to work his way around Bortuzzo, and when he fell his legs scissored awkwardly. He spent several minutes on the ice being attended to by medical staff before being stretchered off.

He was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation. According to reports he was in stable condition and alert.

"I don't think anybody could have thought or planned for an incident like that with Kevin," said Predators coach Peter Laviolette. "I liked the response from our guys, not only there, but once they tied it up, it was just a gutsy effort from that point."

"I think that he's going to be okay, and we hope that he's going to be okay," said P.K. Subban after the game. "We tried to rally around that and give our best effort today."

Nashville squandered a 3-1 lead in the game, but got a tip-in from Vernon Fiddler at 14:55 of the third period to take a 1-0 series lead over St. Louis.

"That's a great team," said Subban, who had a goal and two assists on the night. "Statistically they were the best team in the second half of the season since that coaching change, and we know that right now this is the toughest hockey of our career so far."

Game 2 is Friday night in St. Louis.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Matthews, Zaitsev Skipping World Cup

Auston Matthews and Nikita Zaitsev will take a pass on this year's IIHF World Hockey Championships, which begin on May 5. Matthews told reporters that he feels pretty exhausted after a long season. The 19-year-old rookie scored 40 goals in the regular season to become the first rookie to score as many since Alexander Ovechkin scored 52 in the 2005-06 season. He added four goals in the playoffs for Toronto, who fell in six games to the Capitals in the first round of this year's playoffs.

"It's been a pretty long year for me," said Matthews. "It's just kind of been non-stop."

Zaitsev, who missed the first two games of the playoffs, has also decided against the Worlds, but it sounds like the Leafs played a larger role in that decision. The Russian suffered a concussion on the final game of the regular season and was cleared by the team's medical staff to play in the final four games of the series against the Capitals.

Here's the quotes from Mike Babcock on that subject, per the Toronto Sun:

“He’s playoff ready, but he needs time (off),” head coach Mike Babcock said of Zaitsev. “Because we’ve been given the opportunity (to influence him), he won’t play at the worlds, he needs to get 100% healthy. You go through our whole group, we have some banged-up guys. He played in the world championships, in the World Cup and all year for us - more hockey than he’s ever played. He needs to get freshened up. He has a big year (coming).”

As good as Matthews was this season, Babcock says that Matthews needs to be better next year and he knows it. "One thing about Auston is that he wants to be the best player," he said. "Guys that want to be the best player usually don't have too much trouble bearing down and getting to work -- he's a good worker anyway."

Babcock and GM lou Lamoriello kept hammering home two things in today's locker cleanout at Air Canada Centre. First, they are proud of the way the team improved this year and showed up in the playoffs. Second, they need to get better.

"I think obviously it was a huge deal for us and it was great that we were able to play a good team like Washington who gave you no space and no room and you had to really dig in and I thought that was really positive as well," Babcock said. "In saying all that the guys need to enjoy a couple of weeks off and they have to get to work. When you look at our roster we have a bunch of guys that need to put meat on their bones -- they're young guys -- and we have some guys that need to get quicker, lighter and we have other guys that just need to develop their bodies more. So we have a lot of work to do this off-season."

Canucks Set to Hire Travis Green as Coach

The Vancouver Canucks are set to hire former NHLer Travis Green as their head coach.

Green, who scored 193 goals in 970 career games in the NHL, was the coach of the Utica Comets for the last four years. He guided Vancouver's AHL affiliate to the Calder Cup Final in 2015 and has a reputation for being effective with young players.

Green also guided the WHL's Portland Winterhawks to the Memorial Cup Final in 2013.

The Canucks have not made the news official yet, but have scheduled a press conference for early Wednesday morning.

There were some rumors that the Canucks had been trying to woo former Oilers coach Ralph Kreuger back to the NHL prior to the announcement that the team had selected Green. Kreuger got a lot of positive press after he guided Team North America to the World Cup of Hockey Final this September. He is currently the Chairman of Southampton of the English Premier League (soccer), and confirmed that he'd had conversations with the Canucks.

Green was reportedly in the mix for the Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche coaching vacancies last season.

Thornton Played Post-Seasn with Torn ACL, MCL

Come playoff time, you have your bad-asses and you have your super bad-asses. 37-year-old Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks slots in with the latter group.

On locker cleanout day in San Jose Monday it was revealed that Thornton was dealing with a torn MCL and ACL during the playoffs. Thornton suffered the injury on April second and he needed over a week before returning to action in Game 3 of the Sharks series with the Oilers.

He looked pretty good in the playoffs, putting up two points and four shots and playing over 22 minutes in Game 5 and Game 6.

But on Monday Thornton revealed that he was not pretty good at all. In fact he was bad.

Thornto shrugged it off admirably.

"Just the normal stuff that hockey players have to deal with," he said on Monday.

Looking ahead to next season, it is still unknown if Thornton will be back in a Sharks uniform. He'll be 38 when the 2017-18 season begins and he will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, along with Patrick Marleau. Thornton and Marleau eat nearly $14 million of cap space at the moment, and if the Sharks resign both, it means they will not be able to make many personnel moves unless they can bring back both at a significant discount.

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury news thinks Thornton will have a tough time getting offers from other clubs given his health, so the Sharks have a strong bargaining position with him at the moment. Perhaps the same will be true for Marleau. Coming off a 27-goal season, the 37-year-old said he feels as if he can play another five years today. The Sharks probably don't want to go down that road on term, however.

Both Thornton and Marleau have expressed desire to be back, but if either want a long-term deal it will be very tricky for San Jose, who want to get extension done on Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Martin Jones before next season starts. Both players are up for new deals at the end of next season.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Video: Eric Staal Helped off Ice after Violent Collision with Boards

Things simply are not going the Minnesota Wild's way in their series with St. Louis. And to make matters worse they lost Eric Staal late in the second period after he collided dangerously with the boards. Staal needed several minutes before he could get up and be helped off the ice, but he appeared to be conscious and alert, though moving extremely gingerly.

He has been ruled out for the remainder of the game, and has gone to Regions Hospital for further evaluation.

The Wild are facing elimination today at Xcel Energy Center. They trail the Blues 3-1 in their best of seven series and are behind 3-2 with about eight minutes left in the third period.

Hawks GM Stan Bowman Calls Season a Complete Failure

Stan Bowman is not happy with his team getting swept out of the playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

Duh. But before you dismiss his state of the Blackhawks union address as superficial, take in the intense remorse of Bowman's tone (full video below the jump). This is a man that is clearly intent on ensuring that the Blackhawks never fall on their face like this in the playoffs again. If only every organization could have a GM that demonstrated this level of ownership of his team's failures and a commitment to right the wrongs.

Bowman, widely respected and considered to be one of the best of the business, adressed the media today and expressed his complete disappointment with the outcome of Chicago's season.

"I think it's time like now to take a look in the mirror and face facts," Bowman said. "When you do that you look at accountability and that starts with me. I need to be better, there's no doubt about it. I'm going to take a look at all things and I can promise you I will be better."

Bowman promised that there will be change moving forward, but didn't get specific. "Change comes in many ways," he said.

He also gave head coach Joel Quenneville a nod, saying that he will continue his tenure behind the bench and stating that the pair would work together to ensure that the failure of this post-season is not repeated.

Here's the complete transcript of Bowman's statement, courtesy of Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times:

The Blackhawks won the Western Conference with 109 points this season and were thought by most pundits to be the clear favorite to come out of the conference. But they were blasted by the upstart Predators, scoring just three goals in four games in the four-game sweep.

Chicago has had to part ways with many top players in order to accomodate the NHL's salary cap. That's because they committed to an annual cap hit of $21 million to keep Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the roster. Year-in and year-out they find creative ways to survive despite the fact that two players make well over a quarter of their cap, and this season with a strong crop of rookies helping the team, they looked to be in great shape. But Chicago did not get a single point from their rookies in the playoffs. highly-touted Nick Schmaltz looked overwhelmed, and the inexperience of Ryan Hartman, Tanner Kero and Vinnie Hinostroza also became apparent, especially against a deep and talented roster like Nashville's.

The experience of this season, and the foul taste in the team's mouth, could actually help Chicago next season. Their rookies won't get any more expensive next year, and if Bowman and his brain trust can find a way to re-energize the defense and add some depth up front, they could be right up there contending for the West again next season.

Donskoi in, Meier out for Sharks in Game 6

Timo Meier will be a healthy scratch for the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night when the take on the Edmonton Oilers at HP Pavilion in Game 6 of their best of seven series. The 20-year-old Swiss has had a strong series for San Jose and was even moved up from the fourth line by Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, but he failed to put up any points in five games despite asserting himself physically.

Joonas Donskoi, who scored 12 points in 24 games in last year's playoffs, will draw in. The 25-year-old Finn has one point and is a minus-3 in four playoff games this season for San Jose.

He had a disappointing regular season as well, putting up just 17 points in 61 games, but DeBoer hopes that his experience will help the Sharks as they try to stave off elimination.

“We know (Donskoi),” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “We went with our most experienced lineup here, elimination game. He’s been here before. He’s delivered for us before.”

The Montreal Canadiens will make a few changes to their lineup for their critical Game 6 matchup against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Forward Andrew Shaw will miss the game with an upper-body injury and will be replaced by Brian Flynn.

Rookie forward Michael McCarron will also draw into the lineup for his first career NHL playoff game. He will play with Dwight King and Steve Ott on the fourth line.

On the blue line Nathan Beaulieu be a healthy scratch with Brandon Davidson drawing in for him.

"That's why you have extra players," said Canadiens' head coach Claude Julien. "You insert players in that sometimes are fresh and can maybe give you what you need in order to get the results that you want."

Flynn has only played twice since March 7th, after missing a month with an upper body injury. He had 10 points in 51 games for the Habs this season.

McCarron had 5 points in 31 regular season games for Montreal.

"I made the decision knowing that he's going to be excited and that he's going to bring some energy," Julien said of the 22-year-old. "He's going to help us out with his size and he does have some skill." Beaulieu is a minus-3 in five games for the Canadiens. His replacement Davidson has played two games in the series.

Julien cited Davidson's defensive play and grit, saying he probably wouldn't offer the type of offense that Beaulieu could.

Bruins Stave off Elimination on Kuraly's Double OT Winner

The Boston Bruins are still alive.

The Bruins took out the Senators in double overtime on Friday at the Canadian Tire Center in Ottawa, battling back from a two-goal deficit and riding two goals from rookie Sean Kuraly, including the winner.

"It was just awesome to get that," Kuraly said. "Wow, feels good to get the win."

The 24-year-old, a fifth-round pick in the 2011 draft, has played in just 11 NHL games to date. He notched one assist in eight games for the Bruins in the regular season.

Kuraly had a goal disallowed in overtime when it was ruled that he interfered with goalie Craig Anderson, a call that was borderline at best, but nevertheless upheld by video review.

"Today I got a couple bounces," he said. "When you don't get them you just have to realize you're close. It was nice to get them tonight."

David Backes had the primary assist on each of Kuraly's goals. He also was seen giving the youngster a nice congratulatory headlock on the bench after the first one, which was his first NHL goal.

Sitting on the bench, Kuraly was put into a headlock by Backes, who had the primary assist on each of his goals. The veteran celebrated the moment, celebrated the joy with the rookie. "He's got the tools and he's flying," Backes said, according to Amalie Benjamin of "With [Krejci] out, with some of the other guys out, you need some guys to step up, and certainly tonight was his night. For a young kid, you can't be happier. Great kid that works his butt off. Again, tonight's his night. You love to see it. Boston's win sends the series back to Boston for Game 6 on Sunday.

Don Cherry on Kadri Hit on Ovechkin: It's a Beauty

Speaking on Hockey Night in Canada's Coach's Corner, the fabled Don Cherry voiced his strong opinion that the Nazem Kadri hit on Alexander Ovechkin was perfectly within the rules.

"This is a perfect, legal hit," says Cherry. "How could that be tripping? It's a beauty."

Cherry added: "It seems to me now if a guy gets hit and he's hurt, they look for a penalty, and that was not a penalty. It was a bad call as far as I'm concerned."

Speaking on NBC between periods analyst Mike Milbury shared a similar sentiment.

"This is a hip check," said Milbury. "I don't like hip checks, I don't think they're any good for the game, but this is a legitimate check. Kadri doesn't go below the knee. It's not clipping, it's not tripping. It's well within the time frame for making body contact. What they should do is get rid of hip checking."

Brian Gionta, also working for NBC, also gave his take: "As far as players are concerned that's a hit that we want ot of the game," said Gionta. "But as the rule stands there's no interference there, it's not late hit. ... It's an unfortunate injury ... but according to the rule book it looks like it shouldn't be a penalty." Not everybody agrees with Milbury, Cherry and Gionta.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Tortorella's No-Nonsense Take on Blue Jackets Series Loss to Pens

Watching hockey games is fun, but can anything be more entertaining than a John Tortorella presser? The Blue Jackets' bench boss brought some grit to the podium as he tried to break down his team's 4-1 series loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena.

After a prickly start to the presser ("You guys watch the game you don't need my help with that..." (awkward pause)... "We played our ass off. Played our ass off. That's not a 4-1 series..." "Did you watch the series? You'll have the answer?" "I am not talking about the play. Stop baiting me into it please. There's no sense of me having a viewpoint on it. It happened."). Torts showed some serious pride in his team.

"I like our group," he said. "I'll tell you right now I like our group. Do we have some things to work on and get better at? You're goddam right we do but I like our group."

The Blue Jackets had their most successful regular season in franchise history that featured 50 wins and 108 points, but they were unable to challenge the Penguins and gave up 21 goals in five games, including five power play goals.

While the Jackets remain a team that has never won a playoff series, there is a sense that they are on the right track personnel-wise. Rookie defenseman Zach Werenski paired with Seth Jones to form one of the best top pairings in the NHL this season. Cam Atkinson hit his stride and pumped in a career-best 35 goals. Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson came into their own on a checking line trio, and Oliver Bjorkstrand got the late season call-up and showed that he can be a consistent threat to score in the NHL.

There's a lot to like about the Blue Jackets going forward, and one can make the argument that they were shafted by the NHL's playoff format, which paired them with the defending Stanley Cup champions as the road team. If the league still did Conference playoffs in a 1-8 format the Blue Jackets would have hosted the Senators as the home team in the first round -- a much more favorable matchup.

That said, it is disappointing that this team peaked in November, and really was never as lethal once they had their 16-game winning streak snapped in early Januaury. Sergei Bobrovsky is a Vezina candidate, but he struggled in the playoffs after carrying the heaviest workload of his career. A lot of that likely has to do with the fact that Werenski was out for the final week of the regular season and the final two-plus games of the playoffs. Oh, and there's the fact that the Penguins remain a playoff juggernaut with two of the most prolific playoff scorers in today's game leading the way.

All in all it's no shame that they fell to the Penguins, and Tortorella should most certainly be proud of his team for a season well done, but there is still plenty of work to do for Columbus if they intend to get over the hump next season and finally win the franchise's first playoff series.

In 17 seasons in the NHL, they only have three playoff series losses to show for it -- the time is ripe for them to break through.

Watch: Ovechkin Leaves Game after Crushing Hit from Kadri

Alexander Ovechkin was knocked out of tonight's Game 5 between the Washington Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center when Leafs Forward Nazem Kadri took him out with a low hit after Ovechkin had moved the puck up ice.

Kadri was assessed a two-minute minor for tripping on the play.

Kadri went for a hip check and caught Ovechkin low in the left knee area. The contact actually looks to be above the knee but the collision causes Ovechkin's knee to be hyper-extended. Afterwards Ovechkin stayed still on the ice for over a minute before being helped off the ice by Nate Schmidt and Nicklas Backtrom. He did not put any weight on the left leg as he left.

The Capitals cashed in on the ensuing power play, taking a 1-0 lead on a T.J. Oshie put-back at 18:15.

UPDATE: Ovechkin is back on the ice to start the second period and he does not look happy. He threw a big hit on Jake Gardiner on the first shift and looks to be okay.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

More Changes on Connor McDavid's Line for Game 5

Connor McDavid's line will be fine-tuned for Game 5 of the Sharks-Oilers series on Thursday night at Rogers Place. Head coach Todd McLellan announced that Drake Caggiula will step up to the line alongside McDavid and Draisaitl. The trio has been together in spurts for the Oilers during the regular season.

It's the third different trio that McDavid will center in the series. He started with Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon, but Draisaitl was replaced on the line during Game 3 when Anton Slepyshev was moved up to play with McDavid.

"7-0 is probably better than 1-0," said head coach McLellan on Thursday, referring to Tuesday's lopsided loss. "It forced us to look at some things a little bit differently. Patty's size, Leon's size has been a very useful tool [for McDavid] throughout the year, but we haven't got to the point where we can actually use it in their end that much, so a little bit more pace for [Connor]."

McDavid recorded 100 points during the regular season to win the Art Ross Trophy, which goes to the league's leading scorer, but he only has two points in his first four playoff games.

"I see Connor being our captain and one of the top two or three players in the world," said McLellan. "Rises to the occasion often. Is playing in his first playoff series, playing against the same team, night-in and night-out, going up against one of the top defensive pairs and individuals in Marc-Edouard Vlasic and when [Vlasic] is not on the ice he faces some good veteran checkers up front, and I view [Connor] as having 19 other players around him that have to help."

And what makes Vlasic so tough as a shutdown defender?

"Very competitive, and very well-positioned, and stamina," McLellan said. "He can go three minutes in a shift and still be playing at the same level of play in the last half of that shift as he is in the first."

Donskoi out, Boedker in for Sharks

The San Jose Sharks are changing up their forwards a bit for Game 5 in Edmonton. Joonas Donskoi will be a healthy scratch while Mikkel Boedker will draw into the lineup.

“It’s going to fun. It’s going to be a challenge,” Boedker said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “We came out and played really well last game, so obviously we come in here excited. It’s going to be a good game.”

The 27-year-old was in the lineup for games one and two in Edmonton. He recorded two shots in Game 1 and looked to be in the flow of play, recording over 18 minutes of ice time. In Game 2 he did not record a shot and his ice time was limited to 12 minutes.

Donskoi has an assist and is a minus-3 in four games for the Sharks. Like Boedker, he was a difference-maker in Game 1, but he has gone cold since.

Boedker signed a four-year, $16 million deal this summer, but had a disappointing first season with the Sharks, recording just 26 points in 81 games. Donskoi was also a disapointment during the regular season. He had just 17 points in 61 games after recording 36 points in his rookie season, to go with 12 playoff points during the Sharks run to the Cup Final last year.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Draisaitl Fined, not Suspended for Spearing Incident

Good news came to the Edmonton Oilers in the form of a hefty fine on Wednesday. Leon Draisaitl was filed the maximum allowable amound under the CBA, and avoids suspension for his spear to the groin of Sharks forward Chris Tierney. That means Draisaitl, with a few less Canadian dollars in his wallet, will be in the lineup for the Oilers when the host the Sharks for a crucial Game 5 on Thursday at Rogers place.

Draisaitl, who was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct on the play, has never been fined or suspended before. The NHL has always been more lenient on first-time offenders.

The 21-year-old German was the Oilers second-leading scorer in the regular season with 77 points but he has struggles in the playoffs. He has zero points in four games with just one shot on goal for the Oilers thus far. On Sunday he was taken off of Connor McDavid's line and moved down to center Zack Kassian and Drake Caggiula.

Nobody seems to be sure what is ailing Draisaitl, but many took notice that he skipped practice on Monday and Tuesday despite still playing on Game 4 on Tuesday evening in San Jose. He hasn't been effective at all for Edmonton in this series, but he'll get a chance to redeem himself on Thursday.

Karlsson, Ryan Stake Sens to 3-1 Series Lead over Bruins

If you've been hearing about how good Erik Karlsson has been for the Senators during the playoffs but have wondering what all the fuss is about, check out this heady shot-pass from the Swede. He sets up the game-winner by a rejuvanated Bobby Ryan at 5:49 of the third period.

The fake shot was just enough to leave Tuukka Rask out of position as Ryan deftly received the pass on his backhand and found a way to (barely) tuck it into the vacated net.

The Senators made that slim margin stand up. When Karlsson wasn't good enough (he let Brad Marchand slip behind him for golden opportunities twice in the first period alone), Craig Anderson stood on his head, making 22 saves for his fourth career shutout.

The victory gives the Senators a 3-1 series lead over the Bruins and they'll be heading home for Game 5, where they will look to win a playoff series for the first time since 2013.

Ryan, who scored just 13 goals in 62 games during the regular season, is one of just six players to have recorded three or more goals this post-season.

"When you look at the big picture, this is an opportunity, I've said it before, to wash that season," Ryan said, according to "I'm trying to focus on contributing now and be in the moment with it. So far, so good. There are a lot of guys in here that are going to contribute in some way down the stretch, and right now the pucks are going in for me, and that could shift. But I'll take it."

The Bruins thought they had taken the lead mid-way through the second period on a Noel Acciari deflection off of a Charlie McAvoy shot, but it was ruled that Acciari entered the zone offsides on the play when Senators coach Guy Boucher challenged.

Game 5 is Saturday night at Canadian Tire Center in Ottawa.

The Saucer Pass Podcast, Episode 3

Today's edition of the Saucer Pass Hockey Podcast includes chatter about the NHL Playoffs.


1. Minnesota Wild splitting up Koivu and Granlund.

2. Assessing Connor McDavid's playoff experience.

3. Who has been better in the playoffs -- Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson?

4. What's up with Brian Elliott and the Flames?

5. Balls as big as the building.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Draisaitl Ejected after Spear to the Groin of Tierney

The Edmonton Oilers are getting blown to pieces by the San Jose Sharks tonight at the SAP Center in San Jose. And the frustration is starting to show.

Leon Draisaitl was given a 5-minute major for spearing along with a game misconduct after he speared Sharks' forward Chris Tierney in the groin (see video above).

Tonight's game is a lost cause, with San Jose leading 6-0, but Draisaitl could be facing discipline from the NHL for his ill-advised conduct. The German was Edmonton's second-leading scorer in the regular season with 77 points but he has not recorded a point in four games in this series. There has been some concern that Draisaitl, who took a hard fall into the boards in Game 3 in San Jose and did not practice yesterday or participate in the Oilers morning skate today, is injured.

It's also worth mentioning that Draisaitl was moved off of Connor McDavid's line during Game 3 and spent the second half of the game centering Zack Kassian and Drake Caggiula. Oilers' coach Todd McLellan told reporters after the game that the move was a promotion rather than a demotion for Draisaitl, but nevertheless the 21-year-old clearly has a lot on his plate in his first career playoff series -- maybe a little too much.

On NBC Sports, analyst Jeremy Roenick called for a suspension between periods.

"That was intent to injure," Roenick said. ... "This is without a doubt going to be a suspension. ... He is a dirty player for what he just did and he is going to pay for it from the National Hockey League."

Perhaps working in Draisaitl's favor with regard to discipline from the league is the fact that he has never been suspended as well as the fact that Tierney has returned to the game.

"I don't care if it's playoffs or regular season," said Roenick. "That kind of action is not tolerated by the National Hockey League and he should be suspended at least for one game. A terrible play by Draisiatl, that's a dirty play."

If a suspension is handed out that will make things complicated for Edmonton in Game 5. No matter how Draisaitl has played thus far in the series, he's a key player for the Oilers.

Rangers Snap Home Slide, Even Series with Habs

The New York Rangers put forth a gritty, energized effort to snap their six-game home playoff losing streak and even their best of seven series with the Montreal Canadiens at two games apiece on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. After a flat, one-sided loss to Montreal on Sunday, the Rangers responded with a fiery, physical effort, getting goals from Jesper Fast and Rick Nash to claim a hard-fought 2-1 victory.

Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves for New York, but he only needed to make 12 of those stops in the second and third periods as the Rangers defense worked to limit second chances.

Carey Price made 30 saves and Torey Mitchell scored for the Canadiens.

The Rangers brought a lot of traffic to Price's crease, and even though Nash had a goal disallowed in the first period when he was given a minor penalty for goaltender interference after running over price in the crease, New York's extra effort and willingness to go to the dirty areas paid dividends when Nash scored from the goalmouth after a pair of Canadien miscues led to a shot from the left point by Ryan McDonagh that Nash scooped up and turned into the game-winner.

Nash now has 13 points in his last 12 postseason games for the Rangers.

Game 5 is Thursday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Balls as Big as the Building, and a T-Shirt to Boot

Even though he has been ruled out for the remainder of the playoffs, Zach Werenski has become a bit of a cult hero thanks to his courageous attempt to come back and play in Game 3 on Sunday despite suffering a bloodied face that would eventually become so swollen that Werenski could no longer see. After the game it was revealed that Werenski had suffered a fractured facial bone, which made it even easier for fans of true hockey grit to worship at Werenski's altar.

After Game 3 Blue Jackets head coach would claim that Werenski had "balls as big as the building," and if Torts says it, it has to be true, right? The rest, as they say, is history.

But the Blue Jackets -- at least for now -- aren't history. Werenski will be there in spirit as Columbus tries to stay alive in their best of seven series against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

This fired-up fan has made sure of that.

Capitals Defense Will Be without Alzner for Game 4

The Washington Capitals have announced the defenseman Karl Alzner will miss Game 4 of the Capitals-Maple Leafs series, to be played on Wednesday night in Toronto. Alzner saw his streak of 599 consecutive games (playoffs and regular season) end on Monday when he missed game three. Alzner's streak of 540 consecutive regular-season games is the fifth-longest active streak in the NHL.

He has been replaced by Nate Schmidt, who paired with John Carlson in Game 3. Schmidt was a minus-4 Corsi and a plus-1 in Washington's 4-3 loss on Monday. He logged 16:29 of ice time.

Watch: All Four OT Winner from a Wild Monday Night Across the NHL

Monday night was a historic night in the NHL. For the first time since 1985 and just the third time ever, four NHL playoff games required overtime.

And talk about parity. 11 of the 24 playoff games through the end of Monday night have ended in OT. Too bad half of the series are now 3-0.

Here's a bit about each OT winner:

1. Bozak's Winner Gives Leafs Improbable 2-1 Lead over Caps:

The Leafs are trying to make the impossible dream come true this season. And yes, it had to be nice for the Leafs to start overtime with a power play, but kudos to Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak for teaming up on a really nice deflection (set play, baby), and getting the winner early in the extra session. This game could have had a significantly different outcome, as the Caps had a full two-minute 5-on-3 with a 3-1 lead in the second, and then another power play after that. But the Leafs, thanks to some brilliance from Frederik Andersen, made the kills and began the comeback not too long after.

Now Washington is in a bit of a hole. Will they come out of it?

2. Bobby Ryan Gives the Senators a 2-1 lead over the Bruins

Bobby Ryan gets away with a shot to the head of Riley Nash in overtime and the Senators get a power play. Next thing you know, Ryan is the hero. Wow.
Great win for the Sens, but horrible, horrible call:

3. Kevin Fiala Sticks a Dagger in the Hawks

Hard to say what is up with the Blackhawks, but man have the Predators ever come to life. Fiala was actually robbed by Corey Crawford a few moments earlier, so credit to 20-year-old Swiss, who had six shots on goal for the night, for sticking to it. And this was a sick move by Fiala. Predators lead the Blackhawks 3-0.

The Nashville win was not without drama, either. Viktor Arvidsson may or may not have interfered with Corey Crawford on Filip Forsberg's tying goal late in the third period. Yahoo's Puck Daddy breaks that play down here.

4. Corey Perry with a Seeing-Eye OT Winner

Another day, another bad bounce for the Calgary Flames. That said, Brian Elliot probably could have done a better job of handling this seemingly innocuous shot by Perry, given what was camped out in front of him on the play. And it's hard to have sympathy for the Flames due to the fact that they had a 4-1 lead with a minute left in the second period. Playing with fire is not a good idea, even if you are the Flames.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Video: Auston Matthew's First Playoff Goal

The first question we asked when Auston Matthews tucked this puck past Braden Holtby for his first career playoff goal on Monday night during the first period of Game 3 of the Maple Leaf-Capitals series: FIRST OF HOW MANY????

Will he reach 50 like Sidney Crosby did last week? Will the Leafs be that good of a team over the course of Matthews career to get him that many opportunities to rack up playoff goals? Hockey fans can only hope.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Matthews' marker enabled the Leafs to cut Washington's lead in half before the end of the first period. Toronto got steamrolled early but they got the wake-up call and picked up their physicality to get back into the game by the end of the first. Every time we've counted the Leafs out this series they've bounced back and done something incredible. Will that happen again tonight?

Watch: Karlsson and Hoffman Befuddle the Bruins

You have your stretch passes and then you have this 120-foot hail mary that flew off the stick of Erik Karlsson to catch Mike Hoffman in stride during first period action of Game 3 of the Senators-Bruins series at TD Garden.

It was a beautiful pass (look at the second angle from behind the Boston goal to truly behold the majesty), but you know what? Hoffman's one-handed slick-as-a-beaver's-tail finish might have been even better than Karlsson's home run pass.

The goal quieted the raucous TD Garden and gave he Senators a 1-0 lead over the Bruins. 25 seconds later Derick Brassard added his second goal of the playoffs to give the Senators a 2-0 lead, and it has stayed that way through one period.

Speaking of great one-handed goals, which was better: Hoffman's beauty or Alexander Radulov's slick move to beat Henrik Lundqvist last night at MSG? We're taking Radulov because he had a defender on his back.

The Saucer Pass Podcast, Episode 2

Today on the Saucer Pass Podcast we prep you for four NHL games tonight. Well, we don't really prep you for anything, but we do ramble a lot and wonder how long it will take for there to be an Oilers vs. Leafs Stanley Cup final. Plus, we contemplate the WARRIOR mentality of the NHL playoffs and listen to Culture Club.

Yeah, stuff like that. Listen below...

Werenski's Season Done Due to Facial Fracture

Zach Werenski has been ruled out for the remainder of the regular season due to a facial fracture suffered in Sunday's 5-4 overtime loss to the Penguins at Nationwide Arena.

Werenski was injured late in the second period when he was hit in the face by a shot off the stick of Phil Kessel. He would later return with a swollen, black-and-blue eye, wearing a full face shield, but the eye became too swollen for Werenski to see and he missed out on the overtime.

Werenski later tweeted this picture, which quickly went viral after the game.

The 19-year-old defenseman was one of the biggest stories of the 2016-17 NHL season. He finished the season with 11 goals and 47 points and was a plus-17. After being injured by an Alexander Ovechkin body check on April 2nd, Werenski missed the remainder of the regular season but made his return for Game 1 of the Penguins series. In three games he scored a goal and was a minus-2 for Columbus, who now trails the Penguins three games to none in their best-of-seven series.

"He's out," said head coach John Tortorella. "He's done for the year. Cracked cheekbone. I don't have the exact science of it."

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Werenski Bloodied as Penguins Score Tying Goal

The worst kind of double-whammy occurred for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second period of today's Game 3 vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins at First Nationwide Arena. Zach Werenski was bloodied after taking a shot to the face, and the Penguins scored to tie the game on the play (see full video above).

Play was not whistled down because the Blue Jackets never possessed the puck while Werenski was down on the ice, and Bryan Rust ended up tallying the tying goal for the Penguins.

Werenski would return to action with a full face shield and a seriously blackened eye.

The Penguins currently lead 4-3 in the third on the strength of Jake Guentzel's second goal of the game at 11:48 of the third period.

UPDATE: Columbus tied it on a Brandon Dubinsky goal at 15:11 of the third. You guys might want to switch this game on if you haven't already.

Boudreau Happy with Wild's Effort after Game 3 Loss

It feels like the season is caving in on the Minnesota Wild, but head coach Bruce Boudreau is not about to pack it in. He showed his fiestiness after his team dropped Game 3 to the Blues on Sunday in St. Louis before walking off the podium and abruptly ending his post-game press conference.

"If you're looking for me to criticize our team, it's not going to happen," Boudreau said after the Wild fell 3-1 to the Blues at Scottrade center to fall behind 3-0 in their best of seven series with St. Louis. "We were freaking good tonight, we just didn't get the breaks, so please stop trying to put words in our mouths that make us look like we're bad, because we're not." (Go to 3:00 in the video below to see that segment).

Asked if he was surprised, given how good he believed the Wild were at points during the season, about where they have now ended up in this series, Boudreau simply said "yeah."

Boudreau's assertion of his team's performance in Game 3 is not far off. The Wild dominated possession (67.9% Corsi at 5-on-5) and had 10 high danger scoring chances to just 6 for the Blues, per NaturalStatTrick. They were particurly good in periods two and three but could only find a way to get one puck past the wall otherwise known as Jake Allen. That big blue wall, considered the biggest reason for the Blues early and mid-season failures, has stopped 114 of 117 shots in three games for a .974 save percentage.

Hockey is a funny game.

Game 4 is Wednesday night in St. Louis.

Joe Thornton Still a Game-Time Decision for Game 3

Joe Thornton's status for Game 3 of the Sharks-Oilers series on Sunday night at HP Pavilion remains unclear after Sunday's morning skate in San Jose. The 37-year-old took a short morning skate before the rest of his team took the ice for an optional practice, then later spoke with reporters, not giving very much indication either way.

“If we’re up two nothing or down two nothing, I’ve still got to know my own body and go from there,” Thornton said. “I wanted to play in game one, I wanted to play in game 81. As a player, you want to play every game. So I’m going to keep telling everybody around me that I want to play.”

Here's a clip of Thornton's skate -- hard to determine if he's ready or not from this.

Polak out for Season after Gruesome Fall

Roman Polak's season is done for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 30-year-old Czech suffered a serious injury after taking a hit from Brooks Orpik during Toronto's 4-3 overtime win on Saturday night at Verizon Center.

You can watch the video above, but we're warning you--it's ugly. Polak's ankle gets contorted below him as he spins off the hit and tumbles to the ice. We watched it twice, which is more than enough.

**Editor's note: Just watched it a third time and screamed."

"He's done for the year so it's unfortunate obviously," said Toronto head coach Mike Babcock. "It's one of those things, but Orpik's a good man, he plays hard. He didn't mean to hurt anybody it's just one of those things and unfortunate for Polak."

The Leafs are already thinned out on the blue line with Nikita Zaitsev not quite ready to return due to injury.

Babcock is not sure if Zaitsev will return for Monday's Game 3 vs. the Caps at the Air Canada Centre. If not, he says it will be Alexey Marchenko's turn to crack the lineup.

"I'm not 100 percent -- either him or [Alexey Marchenko]," he said. "Obviously if Zaitsev is ready to go he'll get the opportunity. He skated today, he'll skate tomorrow, and if he's ready he'll be in and if he's not ready March will go."

According to Chris Johnston of SportsNet, Zaitsev skated this morning and a return tomorrow looks likely. The Russian rookie has been out since suffering an uppper-body injury last Sunday in the Maple Leafs final regular season game against the Blue Jackets.

Zaitsev himself posted this video of a practice session from Sunday. Looks like he'll be a go for Game 3...

Habs Make a Few Lineup Changes for Game 3

According to Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette, Claude Julien is making a few lineup changes ahead of Game 3 tonight at Madison Square Garden.

Defenseman Brandon Davidson will be in for Nikita Nesterov on the blue line, and Torey Mitchell will slot in for Andreas Martinsen on the checking line.

Nesterov was in Julien's doghouse during game two, and he only received 13:05 of ice time, which forced Julien to lean hard on Shea Weber, Andrei Markov and Jeff Petry.

Here's what Julien had to say about his defense pairings after the morning skate in Manhattan, per Cowan:

“First of all, I don’t know that we’re going with hard pairings. We haven’t done that now for the last few games here. We’ve kind of mixed and matched, which we probably will continue to do. But having (Davidson) in the lineup I think he’s a hungry young player that has played well for us. The fact that I have some options, I’m certainly going to use them.”

Davidson will be making his NHL Playoff debut. Mitchell is a veteran of 72 playoff games, including 12 with Montreal in 2014-15.

Quenneville on Blackhawks Struggles: That Wasn't Fun to Watch

The Chicago Blackhawks suddenly find themselves in an 0-2 hole against the Nashville Predators after coming in as the heavy favorites and top team in the Western Conference with 109 points in the regular season.

They lost a close one on Thursday, falling 1-0 to the Predators in a tight-checking affair. But things slipped away from Chicago on Saturday night as Nashville built a 3-0 lead by the end of the second period and tacked on two more in the final stanza to run away with it.

It's the first time that the Blackhawks have been shut out in consecutive playoff games since 2002, and according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times, the last 15 teams to go down 2-0 by losing the first two games at home have ended up losing the series.

It's not a pretty picture that the Blackhawks have painted, but much of the credit has to go to a well-balanced Predator defense that is clearly peaking at the right time.

Pekka Rinne has stopped all 59 shots he has faced in the series, becoming the first goalie to pull off back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs in seven years.
Blackhawks' coach Joel Queneville didn't hide his frustration after Game 2. "That was frustration to a different level," he said. "That wasn't fun to watch. We dug ourselves a tremendous hole across the board--not too many positives came out of tonight's game."

According to's Brian Hedger, the struggles for Chicago start at the top. Here's an excerpt from his recap of last night's game for the NHL's website:

Toews and Kane have one goal between them in Chicago's past nine playoff games. Toews hasn't scored in 11 straight postseason games, dating to the second period of Game 4 in the 2015 Stanley Cup

"We're going to need our best players, our experienced guys, to show what it takes and what's necessary to find a way to not just win a game but to find momentum and compete," Queneville said.

Game 3 of the series is at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Monday night.