Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 1 hr ago
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman offered pessimism on Olympic participation, optimism about the coach’s challenge and some frustrating vagueness on the League’s potential expansion before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh.
First, the good news: The NHL announced that its average attendance of 17,481 fans per game is a new “full-season” record. (With the usual caveat that the League tabulates attendance via tickets distributed.)
Here is what Bettman and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said on several topics:
The Executive Committee will recommend on expansion well ahead of that Board of Governors meeting in Las Vegas, which takes place ahead of the NHL Awards on June 22.
The options, according to Bettman, are to expand by one or two teams; to defer expansion; or to decide that the NHL will not expand.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that the earliest the NHL could add expansion teams was for the 2017-18 season, but that the NHL could defer expansion “for a year or more.”
Bettman said that the potential for an expansion candidate to pull their bid because of a deferment “is not something that we’re focused on right now.”
Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 4 hrs ago
PITTSBURGH – Phil Kessel is a fun guy.
“Sneaky funny,” according to Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Patric Hornqvist. “He’s always in such a good mood. He always has a smile on his face. Just a great guy. And then on the ice, he can shoot the puck like no one else.”
The last part has never been in dispute. Kessel is now, and has throughout his career, been one of the NHL’s most lethal snipers. From 2008 through this season, Kessel is fourth in the NHL in goals scored with 243 in 598 games, trailing only Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Corey Perry.
The rest of Hornqvist's assessment might come as a surprise to anyone that views Kessel as a locker room irritant. Or a disinterested party, unless it involves getting his coach fired. Or a prisoner of his own social awkwardness.
Maybe we don’t know Phil Kessel, because he doesn’t allow us to, and so the media and fans fill in the blanks like a disparaging Mad-Libs. So we speculate on perceived standards of fitness, and we speculate on perceived attitudinal issues, and allow his laidback comportment to be indicative of any number of character flaws.
Phil Kessel is a fun guy.
Phil Kessel is a fun guy.
We’re doing it for him.
Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 8 hrs ago
Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 9 hrs ago
PITTSBURGH – Nick Bonino used to be a member of the San Jose Sharks.
Well, “member” might be pushing it. Perhaps “property” is more appropriate, as Bonino was drafted on the sixth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, 173rd overall, while attending Boston University.
“It was cool to be drafted. I thank them for drafting me. But I only went to one or two of their development camps. Good organization,” said Bonino, who is over his Game 7 leg injury and ready to draw in for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night.
Bonino was traded by the Sharks to the Anaheim Ducks on March 4, 2009, in a package for Travis Moen and Kent Huskins.
“I was in school. In a class. I couldn’t really concentrate because I heard I was going to be traded,” he said. "So I went to a 3 p.m. practice and I hadn’t been traded yet. And then when I got back to the room, I had a bunch of calls and texts.”
Fast forward seven years later, and Bonino is facing the Sharks for the Cup.
“They’re a physical team. When you play out West, you have to be,” said Bonino, who had played in the Western Conference with Anaheim and Vancouver before heading East.
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Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 22 hrs ago
The San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins are both known for the blazing team speed. That doesn’t just go for their scoring prowess, but also their defense.
The Sharks’ team goals-against average for the playoffs is 2.28, while the Penguins is 2.39. The Sharks have given up 41 goals against to the Penguins’ 43. Both teams like to swarm opposing players, taking away their time and space, filling gaps to disrupt outlet passes.
Here’s a look at both of their team defenses.
The blue line is anchored by the top pairing of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun, the team’s shutdown duo. They helped stifle Tyler Toffoli, who had one assist in five games for the Los Angeles Kings. They helped frustrate Filip Forsberg, who had one goal in seven games. And then, most impressively, they held Vladimir Tarasenko scoreless until the final stage of the St. Louis Blues’ elimination game.
Paul Martin and Brent Burns are the other dynamic duo. The acquisition of Martin was a boon for Burns, as he’s been the perfect complement and safety net for the offensive dynamo. They’re both positive possession players and solid on the back end.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
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PITTSBURGH – Like the other natural wonders of the modern world, Joe Thornton’s beard has to be witnessed in person to truly appreciate its grandeur.
The sheer mass of it. The waterfall of gray that streaks down the center, making it appear as though he attempted to sing with a mouth full of milk. The way it frays off on the edges, sweeping off in various directions like the tidal tail of a galaxy.
Somewhere behind it lurks the San Jose Sharks star.
“My brother John always has a huge beard. So I kinda follow in his and Burnsie’s footsteps,” said Thornton of his epically bearded teammate, Brent Burns. “I got two mentors that have a bigger one than me.”
Burns said that in the last couple of years, his beard has “taken off a little bit,” having not shaved for 10 months.
“Jumbo’s got a good one too,” he said. “The ‘ol Dodge racing stripe.”
Burns said he has a collection of items that have allowed him to keep the beard looking good and free of, say, vermin. Like a Jedi to his apprentice, he’s passed on that knowledge to Thornton.
It’s been quite a transformation for Thornton, considering how he looked in his younger years:
Do he think he looks better with the beard?
PITTSBURGH – NHL coaches are often depicted as cruel taskmasters that skate their teams into the ground and crush the spirits of players who don’t conform to their physically demanding standards.
And then there’s Peter DeBoer, man.
Like, practice, don’t practice. It’s cool, whatever.
“There was a stretch when he pretty much just told us, ‘Hey, you guys aren’t practicing anymore. You guys prepare hard enough,’” said San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski.
“A lot of days off. A lot of rest time. Guys have benefitted from that,” said defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
When DeBoer took over as head coach of the San Jose Sharks this season, he walked into a situation that was like a gumbo of stress and strain. The Sharks missed the playoffs for only the second time since 1998. Rumors swirled about the futures of stars Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, and frankly that of the rest of the roster. The players had tuned out previous coach Todd McLellan. The captaincy was, at last check, being shared by roughly 30 players.
Darryl Sutter might have the market cornered on California-based Zen in the NHL, but Pete DeBoer is the League’s greatest slacker whisperer.
(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers and fans who hated them the most. Here are the Chicago Blackhawks bloggers of The Committed Indian, fondly recalling the 2015-16 St. Louis Blues.)
By The Committed Indian (@RealFansProgram)
“Slayed the dragon!”
That’s a phrase we’ve gotten used to around these parts. Upon this day when we come to mourn/kick dirt/wildly celebrate yet another Blues playoff exit before anything a banner would be raised for, It’s time to consider that. We heard it five years ago, when another continually good-but-not-good-enough team hell-bent on measuring its manhood every shift beat a deeply flawed Hawks team, took the most amount of time to do it, and celebrated as if it was discovered drinking beer gives you superpowers. A team with Cup aspirations screaming out its lungs needing every bounce and break to beat a third-placed team.
It was Vancouver then. It’s St. Louis now. That’s some company you keep, Blues.
David Backes of the St. Louis Blues gave one of the most emotional postgame interviews in recent memory after the San Jose Sharks eliminated them in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final.
His face was haggard. His eyes were red with tears. His voice cracked. And he wanted to take a moment to thank a teammate.
“He’ll kill me for telling this story, but in Game 5 I’m not feeling well. And Steve Ott brings me something that helped me feel better,” said Backes, choking back the waterworks. “And knowing that he’s the guy coming out of the lineup if I can play, that’s pretty selfless. That’s the kind of guys we have in here.”
It was quite a moment, as the captain thanks a teammate who sacrificed his … wait, what? ‘Brings me something that helped me feel better?’
This naturally led to a Barstool Sports story that “speculated” that the entire St. Louis Blues playoff run was the result of performance enhancing drugs.
But seriously, what did Steve Ott give David Backes to make him feel better?
OK, OK … but what magic elixir did Steve Ott give you?
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Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 2 days ago
Stunning Numbers is an occasional look at stats and figures from around the NHL
The Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks are going to battle for the Stanley Cup. Who are they? How did they get here?
A look at some of the numbers behind the conference champs:
The combined total of regular season, playoff, Olympic and world championship games played by Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks before playing in their first Stanley Cup Final game on Monday.
The age of Penguins goalie Matt Murray when Dainius Zubrus of the Sharks made his debut with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1996, which was also the year he was taken in the NHL Draft.
The total number of Canadian players on both teams’ active rosters – an important fact to know in Gary Bettman’s Plan To Attract Canadian Viewers To A Non-Canadian Playoff Season Through Canadian Players.
The number of power-play opportunities between the regular season and postseason for the Sharks, most for any team in the NHL this season. The Penguins, by comparison, had 325.