Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while the NHL summer recess is pretty much upon us.
*Pro Hockey Talk has the details of an eight-year contract extension between the Lightning and Nikita Kucherov that will pay the Hart Trophy candidate a sum of $9.5 million per season. It’s a reasonable deal for a superstar in the prime of his career, but one wonders if this kind of deal precludes Tampa from also locking up Erik Karlsson to a theoretical long-term contract as well. It’s reasonable to think the Lightning could afford Karlsson for the upcoming season, but much less clear how they’d be able to do it for the long term.
*If your name is Joseph Patrick Haggerty, then the chances are pretty bloody good that you’re going to like next season’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish-themed Winter Classic logo for the Bruins/Blackhawks game.
*Interesting piece on goalie Chris Darling working hard this offseason to try and bounce back from a horrendous first season with the Carolina Hurricanes.
*The Hockey News isn’t expecting a hangover second season from the Vegas Golden Knights after they made it all the way to the Cup Final last season.
*A group of NHL stars talk about their pet peeves on the ice in this NHL-produced video.
*For something completely different: It was great to hear that all of the soccer players and their coach got out of the cave safely in Thailand. There were many heroes involved whether it was the Navy SEAL divers that did the rescuing, the one Navy SEAL that gave his life in the escape efforts or this Australian doctor that consulted on the rescue mission.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while my mind is blown that Brad Marchand has given up almost a million dollars in game checks for disciplinary measures during his NHL career.
*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Ken Campbell takes a hard stance against the NHL Department of Player Safety and complains that five games aren’t nearly enough of a punishment for six-time offender Brad Marchand in his latest suspension.
*A list of five unheralded rookies from this season includes Danton Heinen, who deserves all the attention he gets in an extremely talented class of NHL rookies.
*The Tampa Bay Lightning dominated the TSN hockey coach’s poll as the belief is that they’re the NHL’s best team and that Nikita Kucherov was the league’s best player. The Bruins did get a respectable amount of votes, however.
*Jumbo Joe Thornton is going to miss several weeks due to injury as perhaps he’s beginning to show his age a bit with the San Jose Sharks.
*Having two reliable goaltenders has always been an important thing in the NHL, but it’s become vital for any NHL teams hoping to be in the playoffs.
*For something completely different: Is Vince McMahon looking to bring back the XFL when it was ahead of its time the last time around?
GOLD STAR: Torey Krug had a radically up-and-down game in the Sunday loss to the Edmonton Oilers, and clearly entered Wednesday night’s game aiming to be a difference-maker. Krug finished by scoring the game-winning goal in the second period, led the Bruins with a game-high seven shots on net and had eight shot attempts and a couple of blocked shots in 17:42 of ice time. Even better Krug managed to stay out of any big trouble in the defensive zone and avoided any turnovers in a high-paced, back-and-forth game against the Lightning. Krug has only been back for a couple of games after missing time with an injury, but on Wednesday night he looked like a player trending toward the top of his game with heavy involvement in the offensive zone.
BLACK EYE: Nikita Kucherov is one of the top scorers in the NHL along with Steven Stamkos, and he’s been brilliant in the first couple of months with Tampa Bay. But on Wednesday night he finished with just a single shot on net and a minus-2 while clearly not enjoying very good skating legs. His one and only chance in the game was a sweeping one-timer attempt at the end of the second period, and it was a very good scoring opportunity. However, Tuukka Rask was able to make the stop on Kucherov’s scoring attempt and that was it for the Hart Trophy hopeful.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins seized this game early on and outshot the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 19-5 margin. They also scored two first period goals and imposed their will on the Bolts. It was a positive for the Bruins to get the goal from Charlie McAvoy midway through the period, and see it count after a phantom Brad Marchand goalie interference call almost cost them. It could have been a boost for Tampa to get through the rest of a period down by just a single goal after being dominated, but a Riley Nash wrist shot toward the end of the period created a lead the Bruins would never surrender. As it turned out, the strong start was enough to carry them to victory for the most part.
HONORABLE MENTION: It’s got to be Tuukka Rask, who only made 19 saves but came up with the big time stops to maintain momentum in the game. Rask stopped 14-of-16 shots in the final two periods, in addition to stoning a Nikita Kucherov rocket toward the end of the middle period that kept the Bruins ahead of the Bolts. Even if the Finnish goaltender downplayed it, it’s pretty clear that Wednesday night was a massive step forward for him if he wanted to hold onto the No. 1 goaltender spot with the B's. Rask went out and did his job in solid, workmanlike fashion, and that’s all the Bruins are looking from their main puck-stopper.
BY THE NUMBERS: 28:11 – the game-high ice time total for Charlie McAvoy, who was very strong while scoring Boston’s first goal. He finished with an important multi-point effort in a very strong showing for the rookie D-man.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I don’t think we saw their best game, but we definitely were ready and excited to play them. We want to continue to get better and I think we’ve done it, the last little bit. You’re really seeing guys come into their own and really step up. We need that going forward.” –Brad Marchand, liked what he saw in the win over Tampa Bay after he returned to the lineup from injury.