Tag Archives: 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs

March 18 – Day 150 – The previewiest of playoff previews

Saturdays are known for being action-packed, and today does not disappoint with its 10 contests. The first two games (Colorado at Detroit and Columbus at the New York Islanders [NHLN]) are matinees and drop the puck at 1 p.m. They’re just a sampler of excitement to come, as five matchups (the New York Rangers at Minnesota [NHLN], Chicago at Toronto [CBC/CITY], Montréal at Ottawa [SN/TVAS], Washington at Tampa Bay and Nashville at Carolina) get underway at the usual 7 p.m. starting time. St. Louis at Arizona gets green-lit two hours later, followed by Vancouver at Edmonton (CBC/SN) at 10 p.m. and Anaheim at San Jose at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Colorado at Detroit: It’s an old-school, former Western Conference rivalry between teams that have seen better days.
  • Chicago at Toronto: For the first time in a long while, the Blackhawks‘ lone visit to the Air Canada Centre should provide a thrilling contest.
  • Montréal at Ottawa: The Atlantic Division lead is on the line in this rivalry tonight, the first half of a home-and-home series this weekend.
  • Anaheim at San Jose: Another rivalry, this one takes place in another competitive division: the Pacific.

I tried to come up with a better reason for any other game, but this weekend’s home-and-home between the top two teams in the Atlantic Division is just too big to ignore. Off to the Canadian capital!

 

Talk about a playoff preview. Not only does tonight’s game offer a look into a potential second round meeting between these two clubs, but the fact that they square off again tomorrow night at the Bell Centre gives a full sense of how that series could play out.

Oh yeah, and these teams aren’t necessarily fond of each other to start with. As if this weekend’s games couldn’t get more exciting, they just found a way too.

Of course, the 39-23-8 Canadiens cast a large, imposing shadow in light of both what they’ve done in their history as well as what they’ve simply done this year. They’ve topped the Atlantic Division for effectively the entire season, and it’s all been on the back of their incredible goaltending which has allowed only 174 goals against, which ties for seventh-fewest in the NHL.

A major reason for that is the fact that 31-17-5 Carey Price calls Montréal home (shh, we’re not talking about how he’s originally from Canucks-country). Joint-winner of the 2015 William M. Jennings Trophy, he has a .922 season save percentage and 2.27 GAA, the seventh and eighth-best rates, respectively, among the 40 goaltenders with at least 27 appearances.

Price is excellent on his own, but it doesn’t hurt to have one of the better defensive corps in the league playing in front of him. Led by Shea Weber and his team-leading 143 shot blocks, that’s exactly what Cluade Julien has at his disposal, as the Habs‘ blueline has allowed only 29.8 shots against per game, which ties for the 10th-best effort in the league.

If you like goaltender matchups, this weekend’s series is the one for you. The 39-23-7 Senators have been stuck in Montréal‘s shadow for most of the season, even though they trail the Habs for first place in the Atlantic by only one point. They are another team that prefer to grind out a victory, as they’ve allowed only 176 goals against – the ninth-fewest in the NHL.

Although 21-8-1 Craig Anderson had resumed his starting responsibilities since rejoining the Sens, he’s been forced to miss the last two games with a lower body injury. With that in mind, I’d guess that 18-12-6 Mike Condon – a former Montréal goaltender – will once again be called into the fray. The second-year player is definitely the second-best netminder Guy Boucher has had at his disposal this season, but he hasn’t been abysmal. In fact, Condon’s .914 season save percentage and 2.49 GAA (those numbers include his short time with Pittsburgh earlier in the year) ranks 25th and 18th-best in the league, respectively, among the 50 other goalies with at least 18 appearances.

Beyond experience, what makes Condon’s task a little more difficult than counterpart Price’s is the fact that Ottawa‘s defense is not on par with that of Montréal‘s. Even with Erik Karlsson‘s league-leading 187 shot blocks, the Senators still allow 30.3 shots to reach their netminder’s crease per game, which is the 15th-highest average in the league.

Another facet of the game where the Sens definitely do not have an advantage over the Canadiens is in the power play. Though led by Karlsson’s 23 power play points, Ottawa has converted only 17.7% of its man-advantages into goals – the 10th-worst rate in the NHL. That being said, Mike Hoffman has been a shining star on the power play, as he has buried a dozen goals with the extra-man, which ties for fourth-most in the league.

It’s been all Ottawa so far this season when these two clubs have met, as the Senators have a three-point advantage in the two-game series. The last time they squared off was on November 22 in Montréal where, thanks to Karlsson’s game-winning third period goal, the Sens won 4-3.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Montréal‘s Max Pacioretty (33 goals [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]) and Price (31 wins on a .922 save percentage [both seventh-best in the league] and a 2.27 GAA [eighth-best in the NHL]) & Ottawa‘s Condon (five shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Karlsson (50 assists [tied for second-most in the NHL]).

Vegas is favoring a lot of road teams this evening, and Montréal is one of them – Ottawa‘s line reads +100. In light of the previous two meetings between these clubs, it would seem tough to favor the Habs, but the fact that Condon was not involved in those games is enough for me to go with the club wearing white.

Hockey Birthday

  • Stanley Cup (1892-) – You might have heard of this. It’s only the most desired trophy in the sport of hockey, if not all sports. You know, nothing major.
  • Guy Lapointe (1948-) – Speaking of the Stanley Cup, this defenseman hoisted it six times, all with the club he played a majority of his career with: Montréal. The four-time All Star was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.
  • Guy Carbonneau (1960-) – The Canadiens certainly have an affinity for Guys, as they drafted this center 44th-overall in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft. He played in Montréal for most of his 19-year career, and won two of his three Stanley Cups with the club. He also won three Frank J. Selke Trophies.
  • Kimmo Timonen (1975-) – Although selected by Los Angeles in the 10th-round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, this defenseman ended up being a four-time All Star. He spent most of his career in Nashville, but was a member of Chicago‘s 2015 Stanley Cup winning team.
  • Zdeno Chara (1977-) – Although now known most for his 11 seasons with the Bruins, this defenseman was actually selected by the Islanders 56th-overall in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. He’s a six-time All Star and hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2011 to go with his 2009 James Norris Memorial Trophy.

A 10-round shootout, decided by Zemgus Girgensons, earned the Sabres the bonus point in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as they beat Anaheim 2-1.

The first goal of the game was struck by Rickard Rakell (Third Star of the Game Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour), a backhanded shot with 8:12 remaining in the first period. It is Rakell’s 31st goal of the year, an total made even more impressive since he missed 11 games this season.

Ryan O’Reilly (Jake McCabe and Second Star Jack Eichel) is the man responsible for leveling the game at one-all. He buried a slap shot with 4:25 remaining in the second period after Eichel’s 29th assist of the season.

Since I’ve already spoiled the surprise of the shootout, let’s jump right there, as none of the 30 combined shots in the third period or overtime found the back of the net.

  1. As the home team, the Ducks had the opportunity to go first in the shootout. They sent out Jakob Silfverberg, who’s shot was saved by Anders Nilsson.
  2. Speaking of saves, that’s exactly what First Star Jonathan Bernier did to Tyler Ennis. The shootout score stayed at 0-0.
  3. Next up was Ryan Getzlaf, who buried his shot for Anaheim.
  4. O’Reilly was quick to hold serve for the Sabres, once again tying the shootout at one-all.
  5. Rakell: saved by Nilsson.
  6. Eichel: saved by Bernier. Shootout still tied at 1-1.
  7. Corey Perry missed the net.
  8. Sam Reinhart: saved by Bernier. Still tied at 1-1.
  9. Patrick Eaves: saved by Nilsson.
  10. Evander Kane missed the net. 1-1 still.
  11. Fowler: saved by Nilsson.
  12. Matt Moulson missed the net. Yup, still 1-1.
  13. Antoine Vermette: saved by Nilsson.
  14. Brian Gionta: saved by Bernier. You know the shootout score by now.
  15. Ryan Kesler: saved by Nilsson.
  16. Evan Rodrigues: saved by Bernier. Still tied at 1-1.
  17. Brandon Montour broke the monotony by beating Nilsson, forcing a miss-and-lose situation for the Sabres.
  18. Under that pressure, Dan Bylsma sent out Rasmus Ristolainen, which proved to be the right choice. The defenseman continued the shootout by tying it at 2-2.
  19. Nick Ritchie: saved by Nilsson.
  20. Girgensons found the game-winner on his stick, pulling the Sabres within eight points of the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Nilsson earned the victory after saving 39-of-40 (97.5%) shots faced in regulation and overtime, leaving the shootout loss to Bernier, who saved 30-of-31 (96.8%).

After all that, the 77-52-22 road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series now have a four-point advantage on home teams, due in part to their three-game winning streak.

March 6- Day 138- Battle Br[uin] in Ottawa

Four games are on the docket for Monday night and if you’re a fan of split screen viewing, then this night is for you. The puck drops in three cities at 7:30 p.m. with the fourth game getting underway at 8 p.m. If you’re a remote, brace yourself for some serious channel flipping.

The action starts simultaneously at 7:30 p.m. with the New York Rangers at the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators and Dallas Stars at Washington Capitals (NBCSN/CSN-DC). Half an hour later, things kick off at MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba for the San Jose Sharks and the Winnipeg Jets. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Boston at Ottawa: With a win in regulation the Bruins can tie the Senators for 2nd place in the Atlantic Division in perhaps the closest battle for a playoff spot in the shootout era of the NHL. Also, I’ll be working, so there’s that.
  • Dallas at Washington: The visiting Capitals beat the Stars 4-3 in overtime on January 21st in an entertaining matchup. Dallas makes their annual visit to Washington this time around.

For the second day in a row, I’m in charge of today’s DTFR Game of the Day Matchup and as such, I can pick whoever I want without repercussion since Connor isn’t coming back until Tuesday (that’s tomorrow, for those of you that didn’t already know).

So let’s take a trip to Kanata, Ontario just outside of Canada’s capital city where the Boston Bruins are in town to take on the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre.

Unknown-7The visiting Bruins are 4-1-0 in their last five games having outscored their opponents 18-9 in that span. Since naming Bruce Cassidy as their interim head coach on February 7th, Boston is 8-2-0. Currently third in the Atlantic Division with 74 points on the season, the Bruins are 34-25-6 after 65 games played.

Boston has had a bit of a turnaround to say the least since relieving Claude Julien from his duties as head coach. Whether or not that was the spark that ignited the team as of late remains to be seen over the course of the next month, however, the Bruins have improved in several areas of the ice.

Under Cassidy’s reign, the Bruins have generated a lot of offense, improving their power play to a 19.8% completion rate (good enough for 13th in the league) while improving their goal differential to a +10. The B’s penalty kill (86.0%), by the way, is 2nd best in the league behind the Florida Panthers (86.1%).

Veteran winger Brad Marchand (29-38-67 totals in 65 GP) is tied for 4th in league scoring with San Jose’s Brent Burns. Marchand’s name, as well as Burns and others, are certainly worthy of consideration for Hart Trophy talk.

David Pastrnak is tied for 26th in the league alongside Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson. Pastrnak is in the midst of a breakout season in just his third year in the league and has 26 goals and 28 assists, good enough for 54 points in 58 games played this season.

On defense, the Bruins have relied on the likes of Zdeno Chara, Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug and the gang for added depth scoring and shutdown play from time to time. Krug is two points shy (6-36-42 totals in 2016-2017) from tying a career high in points set last season (4-40-44 totals in 2015-2016). For the record, Krug has appeared in all 65 games so far this season, compared to 81 games last season.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask is tied for 5th in wins with Martin Jones. Both goalies have 30 wins in 51 and 52 games played, respectively. Rask has a .913 SV% in that time and a 2.26 goal against average, good enough for 8th in the league among active goalies with 25 or more games played.

Unknown-6The hometown Ottawa Senators roll into Monday night 3-2-0 in their last five games having been outscored 12-8 by their opponents in that span. The Sens are currently 2nd place in the Atlantic Division after 63 games played with a 35-22-6 record and 76 points on the season.

Their power play ranks 24th in the league with a success rate of 16.8% and their penalty kill is operating at 11th in the league, having successfully killed off 82.1% of penalties against this season.

Unlike their opponent, Ottawa is not much of an offensive powerhouse as they’ve only amassed a +1 goal differential, having scored 166 goals for and let in 165 goals against. Additionally, the Senators are 6-4-0 in their last ten games, showing some signs of slowing down, thanks in part, due to injuries.

Defenseman Erik Karlsson is tied for 17th in scoring with 11 goals and 45 assists for 56 points. The only other Senator in the top-50 is right winger Mark Stone (tied for 37th overall) with 48 points on the season.

Ottawa’s goaltending duo of Craig Anderson (18-8-1 in 27 games played) and Mike Condon (17-11-5 in 35 games played with PIT and OTT) has proven to be good enough to keep the Senators in the quest for the top of the Atlantic Division. Anderson’s 2.25 GAA is 7th among goalies with 25 or more games played this year, while his .930 SV% ranks 4th, in the midst of his incredible run in the face of his wife, Nicholle’s courageous battle with cancer.

Condon, by the way is tied for 15th in goals against average with a 2.54 and tied for 26th in save percentage with a.911 among goalies who have played at least 25 games this season.

The addition of Alex Burrows from the Vancouver Canucks prior to the trade deadline will anger most Bruins fans who recall Burrows as the infamous biter of Patrice Bergeron’s finger in Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Besides the obvious battle in the standings, an interesting aside for this game will be how receptive Boston is to having to see Burrows more often in their own division.

Ottawa defeated Boston, 3-1, on November 24, 2016 on home ice. Monday night is just the 2nd of four meetings this season between the clubs. Whatever the outcome tonight, the Senators will have to face the Bruins in Boston on the 21st of this month and on April 6th.

In light of their recent run, the Bruins should be a much more competitive team against the Senators this time around. Then again, Ottawa is a team that played a huge role in keeping Boston out of the playoffs in 2015 and could make life nearly as difficult this season. Despite everything, Boston is retooled and ready to go this time around.

Again, ignore whatever Vegas is saying– your pal, Nick, is here to tell you who will win. I’m picking Boston in a close one that’ll come down to a “stand on his head” performance from Rask and a strong game from one of Boston’s leading scorers (either Marchand or Pastrnak, flip a coin– I’m just covering my bases here). Then again, Ryan Spooner is an Ottawa native and always seems to play well for the Bruins in front of his friends and family…

Hockey Birthday

Daniel Winnik (3/6/1985-)– Winnik seems as though he’s been everywhere in the league, although there is one team that’s certain to be keeping an eye on him as a low cost, high reward variety player this June– the Vegas Golden Knights. Since he is the head of his class of current and former NHL players born on March 6th, I decided to give him this special little feature.

The gritty glue guy has played in 699 career NHL games to date, amassing 72 goals and 150 assists for 222 points. Winnik’s career began in the 2007-2008 season with the team formerly known as the Phoenix Coyotes (now Arizona Coyotes) where he had 11-15-26 totals in 79 games played. Over the years, Winnik has played for the Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins and currently, the Washington Capitals.

Joe Matte (1893-1961), George Redding (1903-1974), Andy Aitkenhead (1904- 1968), Buzz Boll (1911-1990), Paul Gauthier (1915-), Bill Shill (1923-1998), Reg Sinclair (1925-2013), Pete Goegan (1934-2008), Vic Venasky (1951-), Fred Arthur (1961-), Darrell May (1962-), Dan Bourbonnais (1962-), Peter Allen (1970-), Patrick Labrecque (1971-), Chris Taylor (1972-), Lubomir Vaic (1977-), Allan Rourke (1980-), Steve Wagner (1984-), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (1985-), Chris Mueller (1986-), Mario Bliznak (1987-), Rhett Rakhshani (1988-), Eric Wellwood (1990-), Kevin Gravel (1992-), Louis Domingue (1992-), Nicklas Jensen (1993-)


Sunday’s DTFR Game of the Day Matchup featured the San Jose Sharks at the Minnesota Wild and first place was on the line for one team at Xcel Energy Center. A win would move the Wild past the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the Central Division and a win is just what Minnesota got.

Unknown-2Eric Staal’s two-goal effort and Devan Dubnyk’s 20 saves on 21 shots against led the Wild to a 3-1 victory over San Jose on Sunday. Minnesota’s win snapped the Sharks’s three game winning streak and handed a loss to Martin Jones who made 25 saves on 28 shots faced.

Zach Parise returned to the lineup after missing three games due to the mumps and came in clutch on the power play, scoring a goal at 11:06 of the 1st period to kickstart the Wild with a 1-0 lead on home ice. Parise’s power play goal was Minnesota’s 16th goal on the power play in the last 16 games. Jason Pominville (29) and Ryan Suter (26) collected the assists on Parise’s 15th goal of the season.

Staal made it 2-0 with his 18th goal of the year, assisted by Matt Dumba (18) at 15:24 of the 1st period. Melker Karlsson put the Sharks on the board with a redirection and cut the lead in half prior to the first intermission, scoring his 9th goal of the year with less than two minutes to go in the opening period. Michael Haley (9) and Justin Braun (7) were credited with the assists on Karlsson’s goal.

Finally, Staal put the game away with his 19th of goal of the year, which gave the Wild a 3-1 lead at 18:11 of the 3rd period. Recent acquisition, Martin Hanzal (13) picked up the only assist on Staal’s second goal of the night.

Penguins force Game 7 with 5-2 victory over Lightning

By: Nick Lanciani

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoWell, Evgeni Malkin made true on his words— there will be a Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Sidney Crosby’s 6th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs proved to be the game-winner for the Pittsburgh Penguins after a third period surge by the Tampa Bay Lightning, as Pittsburgh walked out of Amalie Arena on Tuesday night in Game 6 with a 5-2 win.

Matt Murray was in net for the Penguins after some speculation over whether or not Marc-Andre Fleury would return to the goal after his Game 5 flub in a 4-3 overtime comeback for Tampa on Sunday. Instead, it was Murray in goal for the Pens, staving off elimination for at least one more game day. Tuesday night was the first time this postseason that Pittsburgh was facing elimination.

Murray made 28 saves on 30 shots on goal for a .933 SV% in the 60 minute effort, while Andrei Vasilevskiy came up with just 29 saves on 33 shots faced for a .879 SV% in the loss.

After an overturned goal early into the first period, the Tampa Bay Lightning fell out of rhythm and the Pittsburgh Penguins settled in for an eventual 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

Here’s how it happened.

Lightning fans in attendance jumped from their seats as Jonathan Drouin thought he had scored on a beautiful rebound from Matt Murray into the wide open net vacated by an out of position Penguins goaltender (Murray). But with 14:48 to go in the first period, Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, used his only coach’s challenge of the night to review the goal and see if the play entering the zone was offside.

As Tampa entered the zone, Drouin had lifted his left leg, which was trailing his already-in-the-offensive-zone- right leg as the puck just barely crossed the blue line, thereby making Drouin offside. Multiple angles confirmed it and the call on the ice was overturned. The Lightning were offside and had not scored as a result. Play resumed, scoreless.

Drouin’s overturned goal was the 8th overturned goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Evgeni Malkin added fuel to his own fiery passion for the game upon a retaliation infraction at 14:20 of the first period. Malkin received a two-minute minor penalty for slashing Tampa Bay captain, Ryan Callahan, and gave the Lightning their first power play of the night. The Bolts were unable to capitalize on the man advantage and the Penguins escaped a bad situation with one of their top forwards in the box with no harm.

Two penalties in a span of 41 seconds doomed the Lightning on their penalty kill unit’s first appearance of the night. Anton Stralman was called for interference on a subjectively early/on time hit, depending who you ask, on Tom Kuhnhackl at 17:09 of the 1st and Victor Hedman was called for delay of game for sending the puck over the glass at 17:50 of the 1st period. With Tampa’s top defensive pair (Stralman and Hedman) in the box, Pittsburgh went to work on a 5-on-3 power play opportunity.

Phil Kessel hacked at a flubbed pass from Sidney Crosby and ended up putting the puck at the back of the net for his 9th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Crosby (9) and Malkin (9) picked up the assists on the power play goal at 18:46 of the period.

With the goal, the Lightning gained a man back on the penalty kill and were able to escape the ensuing 5-on-4 advantage for Pittsburgh unscathed.

After twenty minutes of play, the Penguins led 1-0 on the scoreboard and 14-4 in shots on goal, continuing their trend of outshooting the Lightning, as they entered Game 6 with a 196-131 shots on goal advantage over Tampa. The Bolts led in hits (7-6), faceoff wins (16-4), giveaways (7-3) and blocked shots (6-4), meanwhile Pittsburgh went 1/2 on the man advantage in the first and the Lightning went 0/1.

Tampa started the second period with an extra jump in their step that they quickly lost and found themselves trailing the Penguins all over the ice.

Kris Letang made it a 2-0 game with his 2nd goal of the playoffs scored on a nice wrist shot with a Penguin screening Vasilevskiy in front of the net. Conor Sheary (5) and Nick Bonino (12) notched the primary and secondary assists on Letang’s goal at 7:40 of the 2nd period.

Ondrej Palat slashed Carl Hagelin just past halfway in the second period and received a minor penalty, which put Pittsburgh on the power play at 10:06 of the period. The Penguins were unable to convert on the man advantage and the Lightning were successful on the penalty kill without committing too many turnovers.

With 25.6 seconds left in the period, Sidney Crosby made it a 3-0 game with his 6th goal of the playoffs on a wicked impressive wrist shot that beat Vasilevskiy. The lone assist went to Patric Hornqvist and was his 4th assist of the postseason.

Forty minutes were in the books and the Penguins looked all but sure to have the game easily wrapped up by the second intermission, but Tampa Bay’s Brian Boyle had other plans in mind, at least in terms of entertainment value for the Lightning fans that packed Amalie Arena on Tuesday night.

Unknown-1Five and a half minutes into the third period, Boyle fired a shot that bounced off a Pittsburgh skater and wound its way behind Murray to get Tampa on the board and cut the Penguins lead to two. The goal was Boyle’s 4th of the postseason and made it 3-1.

Trailing by two, the Lightning drummed up several more quality chances before finally breaking through Murray’s brick wall with another goal from Boyle. His 5th of the playoffs, Boyle’s second goal of the night was assisted by Slater Koekkoek (1) and Jonathan Drouin (9) at 12:43 of the 3rd period. Plenty of time left for Tampa to make things interesting.

But nearly five minutes after Brian Boyle earned his 1st career multi-goal playoff game, Bryan Rust skated in on Vasilevskiy on a costly breakaway.

With a deke and a forehanded shot that slid past Vasilevskiy’s leg pad, Rust scored his 3rd goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and put the Penguins back up by two. Chris Kunitz (5) and Olli Maatta (3) were credited with the assists on Rust’s goal at 17:52 of the third period in what was now a 4-2 game.

Neither team committed a penalty in the third period and both teams swapped a couple of chances before Jon Cooper had to make the call to pull Vasilevskiy in favor of an extra attacker with about 75 seconds left in the game.

Bonino promptly tallied an empty net goal for Pittsburgh at 19:06 of the third period and made it an unreachable three-goal lead. His 3rd of the playoffs, Bonino’s goal made it 5-2 and was assisted by Ben Lovejoy (2).

With the win, road teams improved to 42-41 this postseason. In the entire 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, road teams were 38-51. Pittsburgh improved to 47-1 when leading after two periods this season (regular and postseason combined). Their only loss came in Game 5 to the Lightning.

The Penguins last rallied from a 3-2 series deficit in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings. Having forced a Game 7 for Thursday night, the Penguins have a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009. Tampa is looking to go to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history, having lost in last year’s Stanley Cup Final run to the defending champion, Chicago Blackhawks.

The Lightning also defeated the New York Rangers on the road in Game 7 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final, for the record.

Pittsburgh and Tampa have faced each other in a Game 7 only one other time in Stanley Cup Playoff history. They met each other in the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and the series came down to a 1-0 victory for the Lightning in Game 7 on the road at CONSOL Energy Center.

Some final stats from Game 6…

The Penguins led in shots on goal (34-30) and blocked shots (15-8), while the Lightning dominated in hits (26-18), faceoff wins (39-31), giveaways (17-7) and takeaways (8-6). Pittsburgh finished the night 1/3 on the power play and Tampa ended Tuesday’s action 0/1 on the man advantage.

The Lightning were still without Ben Bishop and Steven Stamkos and it is unclear whether or not either one of them, if not both, may return for Game 7 on Thursday night in Pittsburgh at CONSOL Energy Center.

Puck drop for Thursday is scheduled for 8 PM ET and the game can be viewed on NBCSN in the United States and on CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.

Lightning Win Game 1, Lead Eastern Conference Final 1-0

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-1The Tampa Bay Lightning were victorious on road ice in Game 1 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Final, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 at CONSOL Energy Center on Friday night.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 25 saves on 26 shots faced for a .962 SV% in 46:55 TOI in the win, while Matt Murray made just 17 saves for the Penguins on 20 shots faced for a .850 SV% in the loss. Ben Bishop played just 12:25, made 9 saves on 9 shots against and left the game with an injury in the first period.

Ryan Callahan took a five-minute major penalty for boarding Penguins defenseman, Kris Letang, almost three minutes into the first period. Letang remained down on the ice briefly, before being helped up by the Penguins training staff and skating off on his own power and walking to the locker room. He would return later in the first period.

Ben Bishop went down with a lower body injury a little over twelve minutes into the first period after trying to handle the puck in the trapezoid. Bishop skated to reach the puck, mishandled it and quickly tried to get back into position in the crease. He awkwardly extended his left leg and fell backward as the puck skipped by and the refs blew the whistle for the Lightning athletic training staff to tend to his injury. Bishop suffered a similar lower body injury in last year’s Stanley Cup Final.

Bishop was stretchered off the ice and transported to a local hospital for further evaluation. Anredi Vasilevskiy replaced Bishop in goal and Kristers Gudlevskis soon worked his way to the Tampa bench in the second period to serve as the Lightning’s backup in case Vasilevskiy went down.

Alex Killorn kicked off the scoring for the Lightning when he sent a backhand past Matt Murray on a breakaway for the 1-0 lead. Killorn’s goal was his 4th of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and was assisted by Victor Hedman (6) at 18:46 of the first period.

Tyler Johnson was injured on a hit along the boards late in the first period and appeared to have suffered a lower body injury, if not at least a leg or knee injury. He returned to Tampa’s bench in the second period.

After twenty minutes of play the Bolts led 1-0 on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh led in shots on goal (10-6) and faceoff wins (9-7) after the first period and Tampa led in hits (16-14) and blocked shots (6-4), while both teams recorded two giveaways and three takeaways each. The Lightning had yet to see the man advantage after one and the Penguins were 0/1 on the power play through twenty minutes of play.

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoEvgeni Malkin hooked Victor Hedman just 1:46 into the second period and was sent to the penalty box for a minor infraction, giving Tampa their first power play opportunity of the night. The Lightning went right to work on the man advantage and peppered Murray with a couple of decent chances.

Valtteri Filppula found Ondrej Palat as he was crashing the net on a rebound. Palat backhanded the puck while he was falling past an out of position Murray for his 3rd goal of the postseason. Filppula (4) and Jason Garrison (5) picked up the assists on the power play goal that was scored at 2:33 of the second period.

With a 2-0 lead the Lightning set into a rhythm.

Nikita Nesterov gave Pittsburgh a power play after hooking Conor Sheary at 7:50 of the second period. The Penguins were unable to convert on the man advantage. Likewise the Bolts were unable to convert on their man advantage three minutes later when Matt Cullen tripped Hedman.

At 18:25 of the second period, Jonathan Drouin potted his 2nd goal of the playoffs on a one timer from Palat as the Lightning entered the offensive zone on a 3-on-1 rush. Palat (3) and Filppula (5) notched the assists on Drouin’s goal that made it 3-0 Tampa Bay.

A mere 24 seconds later, Hedman tripped Sheary and set the Penguins up with another power play. This time, Patric Hornqvist fired a shot past Vasilevskiy and Pittsburgh scored six seconds into the power play, thus ending the shutout bid for Vasilevskiy and cutting the Lightning’s lead to two. The goal read as Hornqvist’s 6th of the postseason, assisted by Sidney Crosby (8) and Phil Kessel (8) at 19:05 of the 2nd.

Tampa Bay still went into the second intermission with a 3-1 lead on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh continued to lead in shots on goal (19-15) and faceoff wins (26-10), while the Lightning led in hits (28-24) and blocked shots (15-9). Both teams had three giveaways and three takeaways each. The Bolts were 1/2 on the power play and the Pens were 1/3 on the man advantage after forty minutes of play.

With the exception of shots on goal and lots of saves, not much happened in the third period. There was no more scoring in the game and only a couple more penalties distributed.

Ondrej Palat drilled Brian Dumoulin into the boards face first 15:14 into the third period and received a two-minute minor penalty for boarding, as Dumoulin took some time to gather himself and be helped off the ice by his teammates, Nick Bonino and Kris Letang. Penguins fans were not pleased and it was the fourth time in the night that a player required extra time to recover from a potential injury on a play in the game.

With less than three minutes to go, Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, called for Murray to vacate the goal in exchange for an extra attacker in a last ditch effort for Pittsburgh to try to tie the game and at least force overtime, if not score three goals to win it before the end of regulation.

But the extra skater was to no avail as the Penguins iced the puck a couple of times, forcing Matt Murray back into the goal, and the Lightning held off the Pittsburgh offense.

Hornqvist took one last penalty as time expired for cross checking Matt Carle at 20:00 of the third.

The Penguins finished the night leading in shots on goal (35-20), faceoff wins (35-23) and giveaways (9-4). The Lightning had not only won the game 3-1, but had also ended the night with an advantage in hits (40-31), takeaways (6-4) and blocked shots (20-10). Tampa finished the night 1/2 on the power play and Pittsburgh finished the night 1/4.

This is the Penguins first visit back to the Eastern Conference Final since 2013 when they were swept by the Boston Bruins. The Lightning are making their second appearance in a row in the Eastern Conference Final, having defeated the New York Rangers last year in the 2015 Eastern Conference Final en route to an unsuccessful Stanley Cup Final run against the Chicago Blackhawks.

In other news and notes…

Heading into Game 1 the Tampa Bay Lightning had not lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the regular season in all three occasions. The Lightning had scored at least four or more goals in each of their wins against Pittsburgh, with their most recent victory having been a 4-2 win at CONSOL Energy Center on February 20th.

Game 1 marked the fourth time in the past 35 years in which both goalies were 21 years old or younger, as noted by Elias Sports. A 20-year-old, Tom Barrasso, of the Buffalo Sabres faced a 21-year-old, Mario Gosselin, of the Québec Nordiques in the 1985 Division Semifinals, while Bill Ranford of the Boston Bruins and Patrick Roy of the Montréal Canadiens squared off as 19 and 20 year olds and then 20 and 21 year olds, respectively in the 1986 and the 1987 Division Semifinals prior to last night’s 21-year-old matchup of Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Sidney Crosby’s assist was his 83rd career playoff assist and moved him past Jaromir Jagr (82 assists) for sole possession of the second most playoff assists in Penguins franchise history.

Tampa Bay now has a 1-0 series lead heading into Game 2 on Monday night in Pittsburgh. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:00 PM ET and the game will be televised on NBCSN in the United States and CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.

Couture’s 3-Point Night Leads Sharks to 2016 Western Conference Final

By: Nick Lanciani

UnknownThe San Jose Sharks thumped the Nashville Predators 5-0 in Game 7 of their 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round matchup.

Logan Couture had a three point night and Joe Pavelski scored the game winning goal while Martin Jones made 20 saves on 20 shots faced en route to the shutout victory on Thursday night at SAP Center in San Jose.

Jones became the fourth Sharks goaltender in franchise history to record a playoff shutout and became the first San Jose goalie to do so in a Game 7. Not only that, but it was the first Game 7 of Jones’s career.

Pekka Rinne made 21 saves on 26 shots against for a .808 SV% in the loss and was pulled in the third period after the Sharks scored their fifth goal of the evening. Rinne’s replacement, Carter Hutton, notched one save on one shot on goal in 16:06 TOI.

With the win, San Jose advanced to the Western Conference Final and will face the St. Louis Blues in the next round of the playoffs. It is the Sharks first appearance in the Western Conference Final since 2011 and their fourth overall (2004, 2010, 2011 and 2016).

Entering Thursday night it was the 13th playoff game in 25 days for the Nashville Predators, who were 3-0 when facing elimination this postseason until Thursday’s outcome. It was just the second Game 7 in Predators franchise history, with their first Game 7 having been a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on road ice in Round One of this year’s playoffs.

Sharks forward, Matt Nieto, was out of the lineup for Game 7 due to an undisclosed injury. As a result, Tommy Wingels was inserted into the lineup for the first time in two games after being a healthy scratch. San Jose entered the night 3-0 at home in the series and finished 4-0 at home in the series, while Nashville fell to 0-8 in all-time playoff games at SAP Center. Peter Laviolette’s five straight Game 7 winning streak was snapped and his record as a head coach in Game 7s fell to 5-2 (1-1 with Nashville) with the 5-0 outcome.

Viktor Arvidsson took the game’s first penalty at 8:22 of the first period for sending the puck over the glass. Arvidsson’s delay of game minor gave San Jose their first power play of the night and it didn’t take them long to capitalize on the man advantage. Joe Pavelski wristed one past Rinne for his 9th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 9:02 of the first period. Patrick Marleau (5) and Joe Thornton (8) picked up the primary and secondary assists on Pavelski’s goal.

The goal was just Pavelski’s 2nd career Game 7 goal and tied a Sharks postseason record for most goals in a playoff year with nine.

It was apparent in the first eight minutes that the Sharks were grabbing momentum of Game 7 when they had already fired numerous shots on goal before Nashville got their first shot on Jones.

In keeping with the home ice, home crowd fueled momentum; Joel Ward received a pass from Melker Karlsson that sent him in on a breakaway towards Rinne. Ward deked and slid the puck underneath Rinne’s five-hole to give San Jose a 2-0 lead at 16:51 of the period. Karlsson (1) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (7) assisted on Ward’s goal— his 3rd in five-career Game 7s.

To finish off the first period, Shea Weber took an interference minor that would extend into the second period for 38 seconds.

UnknownAfter twenty minutes of play the Sharks led 2-0 on the scoreboard and outshot the Predators 17-3. San Jose also lead in faceoff wins (15-7) and takeaways (5-0), while Nashville led in hits (16-14) and giveaways (8-5).

Both teams blocked seven shots in the first period and Nashville has yet to see time on the man advantage, while the Sharks were 1/2 on the power play.

Logan Couture extended his two-game point streak to three games with a quick goal 36 seconds into the second period that put San Jose on top 3-0. Couture capitalized on a Shea Weber mishap (that seemed to be a theme of the night) and put his seventh goal of the playoffs through Rinne’s five-hole. With two assists in the third period, Couture not only extended his point streak, but added to his already five goals and three assists (now make that six goals and five assists) in the series.

His 11 points in the series passed Igor Larionov’s 1994 Sharks franchise record of ten points in a single postseason series.

Fed up with his own play and Nashville’s general lack of effort, Mattias Ekholm went undisciplined at the end of the second period and cross checked Tommy Wingels. Ekholm received a minor penalty that would be served in its entirety to start the third period.

But it didn’t take long for San Jose to capitalize on their third chance on the power play as Joe Thornton sent a backhanded puck in the twine 32 seconds into the third period. Thornton’s 3rd goal of the playoffs was assisted by Couture (9) and made it 4-0 Sharks.

In keeping with the hometown momentum, San Jose pressured the Predators early in the third, resulting in another goal at 3:54 of the period. Joonas Donskoi sent the puck to Couture who then found Patrick Marleau for a snap shot that beat Rinne and made it 5-0 Sharks in the third period. Marleau’s 4th goal of the playoffs was enough to chase Rinne from the net, but not before Rinne swung his stick twice at the net to break it and a third time as he threw it behind him, before skating off the ice to be replaced by Hutton.

Marleau’s goal was assisted by Couture (10) and Donskoi (5).

At 14:34 of the third, Justin Braun took the Sharks first penalty of the night for interfering with Colin Wilson. Nashville was unable to amount anything on their only power play of the night and Jones and the Sharks went on to hold the 5-0 lead through the end of the game.

With the shutout, Wilson’s seven-game point streak had been snapped, along with his 4-5-9 totals in that span and James Neal’s four-game point streak came to an end as well for the Preds.

San Jose finished the night leading in shots on goal (27-20), takeaways (10-4) and blocked shots (22-12). Nashville ended the night leading in hits (46-31), faceoff wins (32-31) and giveaways (21-12). The Sharks went 2/3 on the power play, while the Predators went 0/1.

While Couture had a three-point night and Marleau, Thornton and Vlasic each had two-point nights, top Nashville defensive pair, Weber and Roman Josi finished the night as minus-3’s.

Despite trailing in shots on goal in periods one and two (17-3 and 6-5, respectively), Nashville outshot San Jose 12-4 in the third period.

With the series outcome, the team that scores first in Game 7s improved to 123-42 (.745) all-time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (4-0 this postseason). San Jose improved to 8-0 when Pavelski records at least a point and the home team won all seven games in the series, which was just the fourth such occurrence in the last 20 years (with the other times being the 2013 Conference Semifinals between Los Angeles and San Jose, the 2003 Stanley Cup Final between New Jersey and Anaheim and the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between Toronto and the New York Islanders).

For the seventh straight season, a team from California will be playing in the Western Conference Final. San Jose played in the WCF in 2010 and 2011 against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks, respectively, while Los Angeles took on the then Phoenix Coyotes in 2012 and the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2014. The Anaheim Ducks played the Blackhawks in 2015 and San Jose is once again back in the Western Conference Final in 2016.

Game 1 of the 2016 Western Conference Final is scheduled for Sunday night at 8:00 PM EST in St. Louis at Scottrade Center and will be televised on NBCSN in the United States and CBC and TVA Sports in Canada. The St. Louis Blues have home ice advantage and play host to San Jose in Games 1 and 2, as well as 5 and 7 if necessary. The Sharks will host the Blues at SAP Center in Games 3 and 4, and Game 6 if necessary.

Numbers Game: Look to the Rafters- Tampa Bay Lightning

By: Nick Lanciani

Many teams chose to retire (or honor) jersey numbers based on extraordinary circumstances, dedication to the organization, or legendary status. With that in mind, what will retired numbers look like around the league in the future? Let’s explore what each team around the NHL might do in the coming seasons for former and/or current players that should see their numbers raised to the rafters someday.

Feel free to speak your mind and drop us a line in the comments or tweet to @DtFrozenRiver using #DTFRNumbersGame.

Unknown-1Tampa Bay Lightning

Current Retired Numbers- None

Recommended Numbers to Retire

4 Vincent Lecavalier

Prior to being bought-out by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the summer of 2013, Vincent Lecavalier was crucial to the heart and soul of the franchise. Lecavalier’s leadership and craft left quite an impact on the Lightning, having won a Stanley Cup in 2004 with the franchise. Throughout Lecavalier’s storied career he has had eight 60-points- or more- seasons, all with Tampa, as he has recently battled a rash of injuries and healthy scratches with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Regardless, Lecavalier remained faithful to the Lightning during his time in Tampa. Rumors had swirled and a trade was nearly complete in 2009, that would have sent him to his hometown team, the Montreal Canadiens, but Lecavalier was determined to stay in Tampa for the rest of his career. He wore number 4 with the Lightning out of respect for two of his all time favorite players- Montreal’s Jean Béliveau and Boston Bruins defenseman, Bobby Orr.

In Tampa, he made number 4 his own. When the time comes for Lecavalier to call it quits, the Lightning will undoubtedly call it quits on using the number 4 and raise it to the rafters of Amalie Arena.

The 1st overall selection of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft was the first success story of all things regarding scouting and player development in Tampa and preceded the 1st overall selection, ten years later, that is the current face of the Lightning- and another center- Steven Stamkos.

26 Martin St. Louis

St. Louis spent so much of his career proving people wrong about size in hockey. When many were calling for the sport to get bigger, taller, and quite possibly stronger (by default), Martin St. Louis with his 5’8” frame and dominated the game in so many underrated ways. We all know how much of a stale taste was left in the mouths of everyone after the way he left Tampa, but we all know that Lightning fans would be the first to welcome him back for his number retirement ceremony. I don’t think we’ll have to wait too long before number 26 is hanging from the rafters of Amalie Arena.

The native of Laval, Quebec did not disappoint over the years. In fact, in the years after winning the Cup in 2004, St. Louis put up some even more impressive regular season scoring numbers. It’s too bad we only got to see this phenomenal advocate of the game play in 9 Stanley Cup Playoffs out of his 17-year career. St. Louis was always the underdog you’d root for, because his foundation of class was taller than anyone else on the ice at all times. His clutch performances with the New York Rangers in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, although ultimately disappointing in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, will never be forgotten.

19 Brad Richards

Richards spent the most amount of time with the Tampa Bay Lightning in his entire career and would surely receive consideration for retiring his number in Tampa, where his game stood out better than any other place he’s been since. While his connection between the Lightning and everything he did for them is surely fading, it is important to remember how much of a role he played for Tampa on the road to the 2004 Stanley Cup championship.

Until this year, Brad Richards held many playoff records for the Lightning. His 12-14-26 totals in 23 games played in the 2004 playoffs were never seen before by the franchise and not replicated until Tyler Johnson had 13-10-23 totals in 26 games played in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ultimately the question that will be asked when considering retiring the number 19 in Tampa will look something like this- does being a valuable member of the franchise’s first championship, merely a little more than a decade in existence, translate into having your number retired regardless of how the rest of your career panned out?

91 Steven Stamkos

There is little question that number 91 will be retired one day by the Lightning. That is as long as they can keep Stamkos around long enough. The only thing that might put retirement celebrations on hold in Tampa is the looming contract extension agreement that may or may not still occur between Steven Stamkos and the Lightning. Again, as long as they have him for longer than the seven years he’s already been with the club, his number is a shoe in someday to be retired by the organization.

The Chicago Blackhawks are 2015 Stanley Cup Champions

2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 6 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-2Dynasty. That’s the first word that comes to mind when anyone has to reflect on the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks are Stanley Cup champions, once again, for the 3rd time in 6 seasons. 2015 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Duncan Keith, scored the Stanley Cup winning- game winning- goal and Patrick Kane ensured the win with his goal in the 3rd period that made it 2-0 Chicago.

Corey Crawford made 25 saves en route to a Stanley Cup clinching shutout, while Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender, Ben Bishop, stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced in the Lightning’s loss.

Despite entering the night as the only team in the NHL that hadn’t lost 3 games in a row at any point in the season, Joel Quenneville and the Chicago Blackhawks handed the Tampa Bay Lightning their first three game losing streak of the year. Quenneville improved to 10-0 in his career as the Blackhawks head coach in Game 6’s when leading the series 3-2.

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Your 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Photo: Getty Images

The game began with a furious pace as the Blackhawks quickly led the Lightning in shots on goal, 4-2 at 8:35 of the opening period. The 8:35 mark also acknowledged the first penalty of the game as Tampa forward, Cedric Paquette, was called for tripping Chicago captain, Jonathan Toews.

Teuvo Teravainen nearly had a power play goal, but sent the puck just wide of the goal, similar to how Marian Hossa had done so earlier in the series. The Lightning’s penalty killers were able to get the job done and finished off Chicago’s power play opportunity without allowing a goal on the scoreboard.

At 13:53, Brian Boyle took the second penalty of the game and was sent to the box with a minor penalty for roughing. The Lightning killed the penalty. Toews had a remarkable chance late in the 1st period as he fell to his knees and nearly redirected the puck in the net with the shaft of his stick, but sent one wide instead. Paquette had a similar chance a couple of minutes later for Tampa.

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40 year-old, Kimmo Timonen, raises the Cup for the first and last time in his career, becoming the oldest defenseman since Ray Bourque (2001) to win the Cup. Photo: Getty Images

After twenty minutes of play, Chicago was outshooting Tampa, 13-4, leading faceoff wins, 12-5, and blocked shots, 9-5, while Tampa was tied in hits, 16-16. The Blackhawks had gone 0/2 on the power play in the 1st, while the Lightning had yet to see a man advantage opportunity.

Nearly a minute into the 2nd period, Steven Stamkos found himself on a breakaway. His backhanded shot was denied by the sprawling pads of Corey Crawford and the lack of puck luck continued to haunt Stamkos.

Both teams swapped numerous chances as the tremendous battle of spectacular goaltending continued. Chicago broke out with a sting of 4 shots on goal in an eight-minute span, while holding Tampa to a single shot on goal.

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Duncan Keith receives the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Photo: Getty Images

At 17:13 of the 2nd period, Duncan Keith collected a rebound and scored the game’s first goal of the night. The 1-0 lead for the Blackhawks came on Keith’s 3rd goal of the postseason, with help from Patrick Kane and former Lightning forward, and member of the 2004 Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning team, Brad Richards.

With the goal, Keith tied Chris Chelios for most points by a Blackhawks defenseman in a single postseason with 21 points. Chelios had accomplished the feat in 1992. Chicago was leading shots on goal, 20-11.

22,424 Blackhawks fans at the United Center broke out in unison, chanting “we want the Cup” repeatedly for a few minutes after Keith’s goal.

Ondrej Palat took a minor penalty for elbowing at 19:13 of the period, giving the Blackhawks another powerplay opportunity that carried over into the 3rd period, as a result of not scoring in the remainder of the 2nd period.

After forty minutes of play, Chicago led 1-0 on the scoreboard and was leading just about everything else. The Blackhawks led shots on goal 23-11, faceoff wins 25-15, and blocked shots 14-8. Meanwhile, the Lightning were outhitting Chicago, 40-23.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/ Getty Images
Captain’s Jonathan Toews (left) and Steven Stamkos (right) shake hands at the end of Game 6. Photo by Bruce Bennett/ Getty Images

The final frame of the 2014-2015 NHL season began just as the game had originally begun, with complete domination from the Chicago Blackhawks. The fatigue of 26 playoff games was apparent as the young Tampa Bay Lightning squad chased the well-decorated veteran Blackhawk players around the rink.

With 9:34 remaining in the 3rd period, the Lightning were being outshot 30-18. On Chicago’s 31st shot of the night, Patrick Kane worked his playoff magic and gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead with his 11th goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs (and first goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final). Kane’s goal was assisted by Brad Richards and Brandon Saad.

The United Center was delirious, all but assured of their first Stanley Cup championship won at home since 1938- back when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President- and rightfully so, with the impressive skill and teamwork of the Blackhawks that has powered them in the Kane and Toews era, burning pages into the history books.

Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images
Corey Crawford looks on during the action in Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Chicago was so confident, in fact, that when Andrew Desjardins was sent to the sin bin for tripping Tampa defenseman, Anton Stralman, it looked as though they weren’t even playing shorthanded at 16:31 of the 3rd period. The Blackhawks killed the penalty with ease, as Crawford denied every shot on Tampa’s only power play of the night.

The seconds ran out and the Blackhawks had captured the Cup at home for the first time since Fitchburg, Massachusetts native, Bill Stewart, was the first American-trained head coach to win the Stanley Cup in 1938 with Chicago. 1938 was also the final time the Stanley Cup Final was a best of 5-games series.

Chicago finished the night with dominating faceoff wins 42-20, blocked shots 25-12, and shots on goal 32-25, while Tampa led in hits, 56-32. The Blackhawks ended the night 0 for 3 on the power play, while the Lightning finished 0 for 1 on the man advantage.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Ben Bishop (30) sprawls to make a save on Andrew Desjardins (11) in Game 6. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

There are 17 players on the Blackhawks roster now with multiple Stanley Cups. Corey Crawford picked up his 45th career playoff win, tying a Blackhawks record held by legendary goaltender, Tony Esposito. Crawford also became the first Blackhawks goalie to win multiple Cups in a Chicago uniform.

Patrick Kane now has 114 points in 116 career playoff games and gave the series its lone two-goal lead after more than 350 minutes of one-goal leads or tied games. Chicago improved to 43-14 overall after Game 3 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Kane/Toews/Keith era.

Marian Hossa also capped off his 3rd Cup in 5 Stanley Cup Final appearances in the last 8 years. Hossa lost the Cup as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008 and as a Detroit Red Wing in 2009, but has won all 3 Stanley Cups in his career with the Chicago Blackhawks (2010, 2013, and 2015).

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Duncan Keith (2) scores the game winning goal on Ben Bishop (30) in the 2nd Period of Game 6 as Andrej Sustr (62) looks on. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Among notoriety, this year’s Conn Smythe winner, Duncan Keith is the first defenseman in NHL history to win 3 Stanley Cups, 2 Olympic Gold medals, 2 Norris Trophies, and 1 Conn Smythe Trophy. Keith also joined the likes of Larry Robinson, Brian Leetch, Bobby Orr, and Nicklas Lidstrom as the only defensemen in history to have won at least 2 Norris Trophies and a Conn Smythe.

Duncan Keith was, by far, the Conn Smythe Trophy leading candidate, having been on the ice for 46 of the Blackhawks 68 goals in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The next highest on Chicago was Jonathan Toews, with 29. Keith also became the 2nd defenseman since 2005 with more than 20 points in a single postseason, joining Chris Pronger (2006) in that impressive feat.

Keith also became the first defenseman to win the Conn Smythe since Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer won it in 2007.

Unknown-1The Blackhawks became the first team since the 1945 Toronto Maple Leafs to score 2 or fewer goals in all 4 wins of a Stanley Cup Final series. And just like in 1938, the Stanley Cup was late to the party. Delayed because of the weather, the Cup received a police escort to the United Center after leaving the hotel shortly after puck drop. For the record, then NHL President, Frank Calder, did not think Chicago would win the Cup that night, so it wasn’t even presented to the winning team.

After the loss, the Tampa Bay Lightning revealed some of the injuries the team had suffered, including those to goaltender, Ben Bishop- who had been playing with a torn groin since Game 2- and Tyler Johnson, who had been playing with a broken wrist.

Jonathan Toews became the first captain with 3 or more Stanley Cups by the age of 27 since Wayne Gretzky captained the Edmonton Oilers to 4 Stanley Cups in 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1988.

And on one final note, after 250 days, the 2014-2015 NHL season and playoffs witnessed 1,319 games played, 6,997 goals scored, 67,417 hits, 78,997 shots on goal, and 81,082 face-offs.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #5 2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 6 Preview and More

Host, Nick Lanciani, and analyst, Colby Kephart, discuss the chances of the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup on home ice for the first time since 1938 and more in the fifth edition of the Down the Frozen River Podcast.

Join the conversation, make a suggestion, or ask a question for our next podcast using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver on Twitter- your thoughts might make it on our show!

Vermette, Blackhawks, Chance to Clinch on Monday

2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 5 Recap

By: Colby Kephart

Unknown-2Antoine Vermette scored yet another clutch game winning goal in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs en route to the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Heading into Game 5 the big story was Ben Bishop, having played through an injury in Game 3 and how he would continue handle it on Saturday night.

Aside from his early mess up that led to Patrick Sharp’s goal 6:11 into the 1st period, he seemed to have a solid game for being injured. However, Corey Crawford was the better goalie only giving up one goal on 29 shots.

The Blackhawks got off to an early start in the 1st period. It wasn’t surprising that they wanted to test the injured Ben Bishop. Bishop was there to answer early chances from Duncan Keith and Brandon Saad. It was one-way traffic in the first few minutes and it looked like Tampa forgot to show up at their own arena.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Nikita Kucherov had a chance as Corey Crawford made a mistake playing the puck and sent it right to Kucherov’s stick. Crawford dove back in front and stopped the surefire goal and run of play, a little over five minutes into the period. As Crawford froze the puck, Kucherov collided with the far post and left the game with an apparent shoulder injury.

Ben Bishop wasn’t so lucky on his mistake a minute later. As he came out to play the puck, he collided with his defenseman, Victor Hedman, while Patrick Sharp collected the puck and put into the wide open net, for his 5th of the post season. Teuvo Teravainen and Jonathan Toews were given the assists on Sharp’s goal.

Unknown-1By the halfway point of the period Chicago was outshooting the Lightning 11-3. Tampa wasn’t getting many shots, but they were throwing their weight around- outhitting Chicago 19-7. Faceoffs were split pretty equally with Chicago having a slight advantage, 13-10. The period ended with questions left unanswered by Tampa, especially since they only had 5 shots on goal compared to Chicago’s 15 shots on net.

The second period began with a penalty in the opening 47 seconds of the period, as Tampa’s Cedric Paquette was called for hooking. Tampa had a strong penalty kill and kept Chicago to very few chances. Except for Kris Versteeg’s great chance from the slot, but it was denied by Bishop.

Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The pace of the 2nd period was much more balanced than the 1st period. About halfway into the 2nd, shots on goal read 20-10 in favor of Chicago. Tampa was outhitting Chicago, 28-7, and leading in faceoffs, 14-13. 10:53 into the 2nd period Tampa evened the scoreboard with Valtteri Filppula netting his 4th of the playoffs, with help from Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman.

A few minutes later Brandon Saad took Chicago’s first penalty of the game as he got called for slashing on JT Brown.

The 2nd period concluded with both teams swapping chances, although neither could manage to find the back of the net. Tampa closed the gap in shots on goal trialing, 22-17. Tampa has also more than doubled Chicago in hits, 32-13. Chicago has continued to lead in faceoff wins, 19-16.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Third period action began with both teams exchanging chances as play went end to end. Brenden Morrow had a chance on a pass that somehow made it to him and went one on one with Crawford, who made a great save on the wrist shot.

Not even a full minute later, Chicago forward, Kris Versteeg carried the puck in on Bishop and threw a quick one off the Lightning goaltender. Antoine Vermette found the rebound and scored yet another big goal for the Blackhawks this postseason. It was his 4th of the playoffs with help from Versteeg.

The teams continued to exchange chances for most of the period, as Bishop and Crawford made big saves. Halfway through the final period Tampa was outshooting Chicago 27-24, while also outhitting the Blackhawks, 34-15. Chicago still had the faceoff win advantage, 26-21.

Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images
Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

At 11:24 into the 3rd period Teravainen had a chance with a shot from the slot, yet Bishop was there to thwart a rebound opportunity and made a huge save to keep it a one-goal game.

Tampa began to bring their defensemen men into the attack, pinching further into the offensive zone and generating more odd men rushes. In the end, it didn’t make a difference as the Lightning couldn’t find a way to beat Crawford.

With 8 seconds left in the game, poor judgment resulted in a too many men on the ice penalty for Tampa, sealing the fate of Game 5. With the win, Chicago now leads the series 3-2 with a chance to clinch the game on home ice for the first time since 1938 (their previous two Cups were won on the road in Philadelphia in 2010 and in Boston in 2013).

Game 6 is in Chicago at the United Center on Monday night at 8 PM EST. It will be televised on NBC in the United States and on CBC in Canada. Lord Stanley’s Cup will be in the building, on the chance that the Blackhawks win and need to skate with it. The Blackhawks will be looking for their third Cup in 6 years, while the Lightning will be looking to force a Game 7 back in Tampa on Wednesday.

Saad, Blackhawks Even Series 2-2

2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 4 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-2It was a valiant effort for the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final that ultimately paid out with a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Wednesday night.

Corey Crawford backstopped the Blackhawks to the win, having turned aside 24 of 25 shots faced. Brandon Saad’s game winning goal in the 3rd period ensured that the series would be tied, 2-2, heading back to Tampa on Saturday night for Game 5.

The Lightning, meanwhile, listed Ben Bishop as “day to day” with an injury, thereby making Andrei Vasilevskiy the 6th goaltender in history to make his first career playoff start in the Stanley Cup Final. Vasilevsky is also the youngest goalie to start in a Stanley Cup Final game since Patrick Roy, in 1993. Despite a 17 save effort on 19 shots against, Vasilevsky earned his 1st career playoff loss.

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Entering the night Vasilevskiy and his backup for the night, Kristers Gudlevskis had a combined 9 career NHL wins. Vasilevskiy is not alone in losing his 1st career playoff start in a Stanley Cup Final game, as Jussi Markkanen was the most recent to do so in 2006 with the Edmonton Oilers- having recorded a 5-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

For Chicago, Kyle Cumiskey, was a healthy scratch on the blue line in favor of defenseman, Kimmo Timonen. It was Timonen’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance since Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, when he was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers who happened to lose that night at the Wachovia Center (now Wells Fargo Center), 4-3, in overtime to the Chicago Blackhawks.

22,354 people packed into the Madhouse on Madison witnessed an undisciplined 1st period as both teams took numerous penalties, as well as an unusual performance by the Blackhawks coming out of the gate. The Lightning quickly got 2 shots on goal, but the Blackhawks went over eight minutes without a shot on goal. At 8:17, Chicago recorded their first shot on goal. About a minute later, Brent Seabrook took the game’s first penalty.

Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blackhawks defenseman was sent to the sin bin for interference, resulting in a power play for Tampa. The Lightning were unable to score on the man advantage and took a penalty of their own at 11:41 of the 1st period, when Jason Garrison was sent to the box for interference.

A minute later, Chicago’s power play was cut short, in favor of 4 on 4 action as Jonathan Toews was guilty of a high stick that caught Victor Hedman up high.

At 16:33, Kimmo Timonen was sent to the box for hooking and Tampa Bay once again went on the power play in a scoreless game. The Lightning were unsuccessful and swapped man advantages with the Blackhawks at 19:08 of the 1st period, when Alex Killorn was sent to the penalty box for high sticking.

After twenty minutes of play Chicago and Tampa were scoreless, with the Lightning leading shots on goal 9-2. The Blackhawks had gone 0 for 2 on the power play in the period, while the Lightning went 0 for 3 on the man advantage.

Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

Chicago began to take some control of the game flow in the 2nd period, eventually outshooting the Lightning 12-8 in the period.

Nearly seven minutes into the second frame, Jonathan Toews found the back of the net for the game’s first goal and his 10th of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa picked up assists on Toews’s goal.

Brent Seabrook found his way to the penalty box for his 2nd time of the night at 7:19 of the 2nd period for cross checking J.T. Brown along the wall in Chicago’s defensive zone. The Lightning, in keeping with the special teams trend on the evening, did not score on the ensuing power play.

The Blackhawks 1-0 lead did not last for long, like the rest of the games in the series so far, as 5:07 after Toews scored, Tampa forward, Alex Killorn fired home his 9th of the playoffs.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Killorn’s goal at 11:47 of the 2nd period was assisted by Valtteri Filppula and Steven Stamkos. Stamkos earned his first point since Game 5 against the New York Rangers in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals with the assist and gave Killorn 3 goals in the last 5 games as a result.

The Hawks outshot the Bolts 8-0 after Killorn’s goal as the 2nd period came to an end. Chicago also dominated faceoff wins, 23-15, and led in blocked shots, 16-14.

Tampa still outshot the Blackhawks, 17-14, at the end of forty minutes of play and led in hits, 30-22. Both teams were powerless on the power play with Chicago still 0 for 2 and the Lightning having gone 0 for 4.

Steven Stamkos was quickly penalized to begin the 3rd period, for sending the puck out of play, over the glass, thus earning a delay of game penalty at 1:04 of the period. Chicago had already fired two quick shots on goal and looked as though they would soon be leading the shots on goal category, but the Lightning soon responded with a few shots of their own after killing off Stamkos’s penalty.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

At 6:22 of the 3rd, Brandon Saad capitalized on a quirky play and pocketed his 8th goal of the postseason. Patrick Kane was credited with the lone assist on Saad’s goal, which had given the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead that they’d hold onto for the rest of the night.

Chicago survived Tampa’s desperate surge and the tremendous gain in the game’s already furious pace, staving off 6 shots on goal by the Lightning (and plenty more that went wide or were blocked). Tampa pulled Vasilevskiy with about a 90 seconds on the clock, in desperation, as Stamkos shot wide a couple of times and ran out of puck luck at the most inopportune winding seconds of the game.

Time expired and the Blackhawks took Game 4, 2-1. The Lightning led in shots on goal, 25-19, and hits, 46-34, while Chicago dominated faceoff wins, 38-20, and led blocked shots, 23-17. Chicago finished the night 0 for 3 on the power play and Tampa finished 0 for 4 with the extra man.

Unknown-1Game 4 was the fourth game in the series to be decided by 1 goal. The loss relegated the Tampa Bay Lightning to 8-4 on the road in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, despite having the worst regular season road record among teams that made the playoffs. With an extra day off between Games 4 and 5, Ben Bishop will have 4 days off between starts (assuming he starts in Game 5).

The Stanley Cup Final is tied 2-2 for the 5th time in 7 years, including all three Finals involving the Blackhawks in recent years (2010, 2013, and 2015). Game 5 will be Saturday night at 8 PM EST from Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. Television coverage will be on NBC in the United States and CBC in Canada.