2017 Stanley Cup Final: Hungry, resilient Penguins on verge of second straight championship

Back in April, before the Stanley Cup playoffs started, two current National Hockey League players told me each believed the Pittsburgh Penguins were the best team in the tournament, but likely would not win the title.

Sidney Crosby assisted on Phil Kessel’s power-play goal 50 seconds into the third period with a slick behind-the-back pass. It was the 100th helper of the captain’s playoff career, making him the 22nd player in NHL history to reach the mark.

Western Conference finals: Ducks at Predators, Game 6, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN ‘ In Nashville’s latest biggest hockey game ever, the Predators are on the precipice of their first Stanley Cup Final trip in franchise history. Both teams are riddled by injury, but John Gibson’s status looms largest. The Ducks will need their No. 1 goalie healthy and in form to force a Game 7.

Ellis (11), Subban (10) and Josi (10) rank Nos. 2-4 in points among defensemen, trailing only Karlsson’s 18.

Not to mention Pekka Rinne, at age 34, is enjoying one of the best postseason runs by a goalie in history. His .941 save percentage is tops among netminders who saw at least 16 games since Mike Smith in 2011?12.

If that continues against the Penguins, Rinne will be mentioned with the likes of Cup winners Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2002-03) and Jonathan Quick (2011-12).

It’s a unique challenge, Crosby said Sunday. When you’re thinking about playing teams, you’re talking about usually forwards, snipers. You don’t usually think of a group of defensemen as guys that finish as well as they do. Usually one, maybe two guys do that in a D-corps. They have the luxury of having a number of them.

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Example A was Karlsson’s departure following the second period.

The Norris Trophy finalist has been playing through fractures in his left heel all postseason and appeared to aggravate the injury during a sequence of collisions. He was favoring his left leg and didn’t return to the third period with the Rangers leading 3-0.

Senators coach Guy Boucher said keeping Karlsson out was a matter of erring on the side of caution, but a three-goal deficit is hardly insurmountable.

Rinne’s career numbers in the Steel City 5.15 goals-against average, .822 save percentage are dreadful, and as the veteran netminder goes, so too go the Predators.

Lest he be forgotten, Matt Murray also was stellar in net for a 24-save shutout. The 6-0 win will stand as the second-largest shutout in Cup Final history.

Though impressive, the series is far from over. The home team is undefeated in this Stanley Cup Final outscoring the visitor by a 24-6 aggregate and the Predators, 9-1 at home in the playoffs, will have Bridgestone Arena behind them for Sunday’s Game 6.

Drake Caggiula’s goal with 1:42 remaining in regulation forced overtime, but a red-hot Jakob Silfverberg wasted little time tying the series with his seventh goal of the playoffs just 44 seconds into the extra frame. Silfverberg has five goals in the series with at least one in all four games against the Oilers.

Game 4: Rangers at Senators, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Senators lead series 2-1)The Rangers finally looked like the Rangers that had 103 regular-season points in Game 3, scoring at will and getting top-notch goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist. Question is, will it carry over? Ottawa once again has a chance to put a stranglehold on the series.

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NHL free agency tracker: Kevin Shattenkirk’s move to Rangers headlines early moves

The NHL free agency signing period began Saturday (noon ET), and teams around the league are wasting no time going after players they hope can improve their rosters. Here’s a look at some of the big names around the league who are either changing places or staying put with a new deal with their existing team.

The high-scoring defenseman is headed to the New York Rangers, after agreeing to a four-year deal that will pay him $6.65 million per year. TSN’s Frank Seravalli was first to report the deal. The New York Post reports that Shattenkirk had offers for far more money on longer-term deals, but the 28-year-old New Rochelle, N.Y., native liked the Rangers’ situation. Shattenkirk finished fourth in scoring among NHL defensemen with 56 points last season. He began the season in St. Louis, but went over to the Capitals in a trade in late February. He scored 14 points in 19 regular season games with the Caps, and added six points in the postseason.

In his eighth game back, Crosby was on the receiving end of a big hit from the Bruins’ David Krejci, who was accused of elbowing. The Penguins originally announced Crosby would sit out two games as a precaution, but two games turned into an indefinite absence when concussion symptoms flared up again. The fear was it would turn into another lost season for Crosby, who at the time was 24 and just entering his prime. Worse, would recurring concussions prematurely end his career?

Crosby was diagnosed with his third known concussion Oct. 10 sustained during a preseason practice, costing him first six games of this past season. He otherwise stayed healthy and played 75 games, leading the NHL with 44 goals.

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Stanley Cup Final 2017: Sidney Crosby’s pugnacity leads to hockey ‘fight’ between Pittsburgh radio hosts

The hockey skirmish that kicked up Friday afternoon did not involve high sticks, wandering elbows or even that time-honored tradition known as face-washing. Technically, it did not even involve the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins.

It was a battle of words, waged on Twitter, between two Pittsburgh sports radio hosts from rival stations: Andrew Fillipponi of KDKA-FM (93.7 The Fan) and Mark Madden of WXDX-FM (105.9 the x).

Though the two work for opposing stations, their shows are on opposite one another, so there’s probably less animosity than there could be. Madden is an unabashed Penguins fan, although he will present legitimate analysis of the team’s performance. Fillipponi has been known to take a contrarian viewpoint of the teams in the Pittsburgh market.

Three stars

3. Erik Karlsson, Senators Karlsson passed Dany Heatley for the fourth-most playoff points (36) in Senators franchise history. He skated 39:33 in Game 7, capping a memorable playoff run by the dynamic defenseman.

2. Matt Murray, Penguins Murray and Craig Anderson matched each other shot for shot through four periods, but the 23-year-old upstaged the cagey veteran, making 27 saves.

1. Chris Kunitz, Penguins Kunitz is the oldest player in NHL history to score a Game 7-winning goal in overtime.

It’s uncommon in 2017 to see a well-executed hip check in the NHL, but Marc Methot took a page out of the old-school textbook with his second-period shot on Evgeni Malkin. Feast your eyes.

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NHL playoffs 2017: Henrik Lundqvist’s Stanley Cup window almost shut after Rangers’ elimination

There are few more heartbreaking scenes in sports than watching a beloved star player leave the game for good without ever capturing a championship.

That’s why when goaltender Henrik Lundqvist skated to the bench after the Rangers were officially eliminated by the Senators in Game 6 of their second-round playoff series Tuesday night, you had to wonder: Is the Rangers’ Stanley Cup window shut? Will Lundqvist ever win a Cup?

Up early on Monday, Hischier appeared on the Boomer and Carton morning radio program on WFAN, the popular all-sports radio station in New York. From there, a photo op at NASDAQ in downtown Manhattan before crossing back over the Hudson River into New Jersey, where a meeting with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka awaited.

Newark’s famed Hobby’s Deli then unveiled it’s Nico # 1 sandwich, which features grilled chicken, a red jersey tomato and, of course, Swiss cheese.

It’s clear this is no longer Lou Lamoriello’s team. The ultra-conservative former general manager and team president never believed in promoting individual players, even when charismatic types like Martin Brodeur were leading the Devils to three Stanley Cup titles.

When the Penguins were playing Game 2 of the 2016 Final against San Jose, veteran center Joe Thornton struck Crosby from behind twice in the right corner of the ice, first knocking off his helmet and then cross-checking him across the shoulder blades. With the Penguins up a game and battling toward what would become an overtime victory and 2-0 series lead, Thornton was trying to provoke Crosby into a retaliation that might have unleashed the Sharks savage power play.

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Such was Bergevin’s choice, though there was no debate in the GM’s mind which path he would choose.

Nobody has a goaltender like Carey Price in the league, Bergevin told reporters on Sunday. Goalies are not important until you don’t have one. … It’s a position that’s really hard to find, and we have in my opinion, our opinion, one of the best in the business, so I’m going to keep him and make sure he’s here for the rest of his career.

Price has a lifetime 2.40 goals-against average in 509 regular season appearances, though he’s been below that number each of the last four seasons as he entered his prime. Just three seasons ago he ran the table by winning the Vezina Trophy, Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award, leading the league with 44 wins while posting a 1.96 GAA and .933 save percentage. He was again a Vezina finalist this year, ranking fifth with 37 victories, sixth with a 2.23 GAA and tied for seventh with a .923 save percentage.

I love that about the guy. Yeah, he’s always like that. I think our players get a kick out of him, quite honestly, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said about Kessel channeling his emotions into the game-winner. He’s a guy that, he’s a vocal guy. He’s an emotional guy, and he’s all in. He wants to win. So when he comes back to the bench, if he thinks he wanted a puck or he was open, he lets a player know. Hey, give it to him. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

Ultimately, Ottawa was done in by one bad third period after putting on a masterclass on how to beat the Penguins in their five previous. The Sens failed to produce a shot on goal until 4:54 remaining in the final frame ‘ a span of 18:53 that extended to before the second intermission.

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Kevin Shattenkirk says two things swayed him to sign with the Rangers

Kevin Shattenkirk admitted it was pretty surreal to see his name and number on a Rangers’ sweater for the first time Tuesday afternoon at his introductory press conference.

Nearly three weeks after agreeing to terms on a four-year free agent contract with the team he grew up loving as a kid, Shattenkirk was still pinching himself over the opportunity to live out a childhood dream.

I am really privileged to play in the NHL every day, and I don’t take it for granted, but to have it now with my favorite team, that really hits home, offered the 28-year-old Shattenkirk, who grew up in New Rochelle 30 miles north of Madison Square Garden.

As he did Friday, with a tweet critical of Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby for an altercation with Predators star defenseman P.K. Subban during Thursday’s 6-0 Pittsburgh victory in Game 6. After a short skirmish behind the net, Subban wound up prone near the end boards and Crosby pushed his helmet into the ice several times.

Later, Crosby was seated on the bench and gesticulating for an official to call a slashing penalty and a water bottle slipped out of his left hand and onto the ice:

I love Sidney Crosby and hate the play on Subban and the immature, pettish throwing of the water bottle on the ice.

The debate died there, although neither mentioned that the play in question led to both Subban and Crosby being penalized, which led to a 4-on-4 situation near the end of the first period. And Crosby’s teammate, Evgeni Malkin, punctuated that situation with a searing shot over Pekka Rinne’s glove hand for a 3-0 lead.

Even when Crosby is dragged into the muck, it can lead to hockey magic.

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Stanley Cup Final three stars: Penguins on cusp of repeat after clinic in Pittsburgh return

Fed up and prepared to play like it, the Penguins took their pent-up frustration from a nightmare trip to Nashville and channeled it into a wire-to-wire drubbing of the Predators in their return to Pittsburgh.

Perhaps no one had more to play for than Crosby.

The play that stands out above all others as quintessential Hossa took place on Oct. 24, 2008 against his old team, Atlanta. Like many times before, Hossa, then a Detroit Red Wing, read a play at center-ice, and this time saw Thrashers’ defenseman Zach Bogosian confronted by Tomas Holmstrom. The Red Wings forward eventually got a piece of the puck and gently nudged it to Hossa, who was taking off at full speed down the ice. Rather than just continuing at that pace and trying to go short side on goalie Kari Lehtonen, the left-handed winger went for the spectacular. He saw Mathieu Schneider as the lone defenseman, scooted past the 39-year-old with a quick little forehand-to-backhand toe drag that forced Lehtonen off his line. Instead of impatiently trying to backhand it past a sprawling Lehtonen, Hossa realized the time he had, brought the puck back onto his forehand, and gave it a quick little tap-in to the net.

Mason has already been typecast in the role as the well-traveled veteran who can instill his knowledge of the position upon the younger Hellebuyck. In reality, it could be much like the picture Mason painted, of two guys battling for minutes and, Maurice utlimately going with whomever is playing better at the time.

But the bottom line is, for as many goals as Laine will score, and for as many points as Scheifele and Wheeler will contribute, the Jets can only go as far as their goaltending will allow Jerseys For Cheap them. Last season, the Calgary Flames posted the lowest team 5v5 save-percentage of any of the Grade Cheap Jerseys 16 playoff qualifiers at .921 (and their goaltending was certainly viewed as a weakness).

Miller followed proper hockey etiquette in never touching the Stanley Cup before being part of a championship winner.

The closest he ever got was in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, which turned out to be the worst playoff series of his career. He had just an .889 save percentage in four losses. The Rangers lost to the Kings in five.

Having an all-world goalie doesn’t always translate to Cups. It’s not like having a Tom Brady at quarterback or a LeBron James with the ball in his hands. A goaltender can only do so much.

Roberto Luongo hasn’t won a Cup. Curtis Joseph never did. Dominik Hasek won six Vezinas and two Hart Trophies with the Sabres and never won a Cup. He finally won one with the Red Wings at the tail end of his career.

Miller followed proper hockey etiquette in never touching the Stanley Cup before being part of a championship winner.

Weber? Not so much.

“I’m sorry to confess, but in the first year of the Predators I carried the Cup into grade schools here to give them an idea of what this new team would hopefully play for one day.”

Almost 20 years later, the Predators are indeed among the final two teams vying for Lord Stanley’s chalice, winning twice on home ice to knot the series ahead of Thursday’s Game 5 in Pittsburgh. Two more Predators victories and the Stanley Cup will again be in the hands of Pete Weber.

“No matter how it all ends up, it’s been a thrill,” he said.

To define Nashville as some budding hockey hotbed would be Detroit Lions Cheap Jerseys a gross mischaracterization of the city and a disservice to the 50,000 Predators faithful who turned out to throw the greatest Chicago Blackhawks Cheap Jerseys party the Stanley Cup has ever seen.

Best Twitter reactions to Derrick Rose going AWOL

Knicks star Derrick Rose went AWOL before Monday’s 110-96 loss to the Pelicans, but was back with the team on Tuesday.

Derrick Rose has rejoined the team and has been fined. He is expected to be in uniform tomorrow in Philadelphia.

Now that we know he’s ok, we can share some of the funniest Twitter reactions after the Knicks, including coach Jeff Hornacek, revealed they didn’t know why the point guard didn’t show up to Monday’s game.

“There’s no market more important for us than Mexico, we already have discussions earlier (Saturday) about bringing other games here,” Silver said in a press conference before Saturday’s Spurs-Suns game in Mexico City. “But ultimately it will make more sense to bring more teams rather than just have two teams play each other for a single event to maybe bring multiple teams and to have some sort of midseason tournament, sort of like a round-robin tournament.”

Silver has become known for his ideas, big and small. He’s experimented with a 44-minute preseason game and is considering adopting a new playoff system that takes the best teams regardless of conference, among other visions.

“In terms of a franchise here in Mexico City, it is something to look at,” Silver said. “Obviously, it’s an incredible market with over 20 million people, the largest market in North America and, while we have no immediate Nike Elite Cheap Jerseys plans to expand, one of the things that we look at, it’s whether expanding will be additive to the league as a whole and clearly coming to Mexico City, not just because the population of the city but as a gateway to the New Cheap Jerseys rest of Latin America could potentially be very important for the league.”

Saturday’s Spurs-Suns game was the fifth regular-season game played in Mexico, which has hosted 24 NBA games since 1992.