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Orpik, Niskanen expect a new culture in Jersey


Orpik, Niskanen expect a new culture in Jersey

Like just about everyone else in the hockey world, Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik scratched his head last May when former Penguins general manager Ray Shero was hired by the New Jersey Devils to work under Lou Lamoriello.

How, he wondered, would Shero be able to affect change in New Jersey with Lamoriello still overseeing day-to-day operations? But when Lamoriello left the Devils to take on general manager duties under Brendan Shanahan in Toronto in July, Shero went to work on establishing a new culture in New Jersey.

“I’ve talked to a couple guys already that have told me how different things were just in the first couple weeks of training camp,” said Orpik, who spent eight years playing under Shero in Pittsburgh.

Tomorrow, the Devils will skate into Verizon Center with many of the same players from last season. But with Shero as general manager and former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach John Hynes behind the bench, they will take a piece of the Penguins with them.

“I don’t know exactly how it was with Lou,” said Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen, who spent parts of four seasons in Pittsburgh before signing with the Caps. “I mean, you hear things, but it’s hard to speculate because I haven’t been there.

“But I do know with Ray, he’s going to try to have a real family atmosphere. His players are going to know that he really cares about them and their families. Kids are allowed in the dressing room from time to time.

“There are things that kind of go on behind the scenes that are appreciated by the guys. And he’s a real honest guy. The talks I’ve had with him, there’s no B.S. He tells you how he feels and he’s honest about it.”

Orpik said you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who played for the Penguins to say a bad word about Shero, who was fired by the Penguins after the 2013-14 season.

“He holds everyone accountable, but I think honesty is the biggest compliment I can give him. I think in a professional sports world, where they always say it’s a cut-throat business, I think honesty and loyalty is really hard to find and I think those are two things that really define him.”
Orpik said that when he was in Pittsburgh, Shero’s wife, Karen, planned concerts and dinners with players’ wives and girlfriends, and included players’ families in most team functions.

“I think when you’re younger you may overlook those things or not give them much value, but I think in hindsight you see it makes a huge difference when everyone feels welcome and wanted.

Orpik also has a long history with Hynes, 40, who was hired to coach the Devils shortly after Shero took over as general manager. Orpik worked for Hynes when Orpik was 14 and Hynes was working for USA Hockey in Boston.

“He’s really demanding, but many of the Wilkes-Barre players said he was the best coach they ever had and the one they learned the most from.”

Caps defenseman Taylor Chorney was one of those players. He spent most of last season playing for Hynes and current Devils assistant coach Alain Nasereddine, who, like him, spent most of his playing career in the minors.

“I’m sure for Naz and (Todd Reirden) there were lots of times when they wondered whether they would get another chance to play in the NHL,” Chorney said. “It’s not easy to ride the bus in a three (games) in three (days) and trying to keep the dream alive. But I think they’d both tell you that when you do get there, whether it’s a regular season game or the chance to suit up for the playoffs, it’s all worth it.   

Chorney said that while the Devils’ roster may not be filled with all-stars, Hynes will make them tough to beat.

“They’ll be a super competitive team and they won’t be giving up in any games,” he said.

RELATED: Orpik appears ready for opener, but what about Orlov? 

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

The 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship is coming to a close this Memorial Day weekend.

After two weeks, the sixteen team field has been narrowed down to four with the world championship now on the line in Slovakia. 

The two group winners, Canada, the top-ranked team in the world and 26-time IIHF Champions, and Russia, who rolled through the group stage with a 7-0 record and a +29 goal differential, are the favorites. Russia overwhelmingly has played like the best team in Slovakia, outscoring its opponents 40-10 behind Nikita Kucherov's 16 points in eight games.

The Russian/ Soviet Union team is the only team with more titles than the Canadians with 27 (five as Russia, 22 as the Soviet Union). 

Washington Capital Alex Ovechkin is playing for Team Russia. In eight games he's scored two goals and recorded an assist. 

Canada will face off against the Czech Republic, whose only loss came against the Russians in group play, with a spot to the Finals on the line. Russia will play Finland for the last spot in the gold medal match.

Three of the four teams remaining (Russia, Canda, and the Czech Republic) are the winningest teams in the IIHF's history. The four semifinalists have combined to win 67 of the 82 IIHF World Championships.

When is the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will take place at 8:15 p.m. local time (2:15 p.m. ET) on Sunday, May 26. The bronze medal match will precede the gold medal match at 3:45 p.m. local time (9:15 a.m. ET). 

2019 IIHF World Championship Schedule:

There are only four matches left in the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The two semifinals, the bronze medal match, and the gold medal match.

No. 3 Russia vs. No. 5 Finland, 9:15 a.m. ET, May 25
No. 1 Canada vs. No. 6 Czech Republic, 1:15 p.m. ET, May 25

Loser of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Loser of Semifinal No. 2, 9:45 a.m. ET, May 26

Winner of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal No. 2, 2:15 p.m. ET, May 26

How to watch or stream the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

All games at the IIHF World Championships will be broadcast on NHL Network.

Who is playing in the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will be played between the winner of Russia (8-0-0)/ Finland (7-0-1) and Canada (7-1-0)/ Czech Republic (7-0-1).

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF Championship Finals will be announced on the morning of May 26. 

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

When the St. Louis Blues woke up on Jan. 3, they were in dead last in the NHL. A 15-18-4 record gave them 34 points, less than teams like the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators who would go on to finish the season as the two worst teams. Yes, St. Louis had played in only 37 games to that point, the fewest in the league, but finding a way to climb back into the playoff hunt seemed daunting and unlikely.

Now the Blues are the Western Conference champions and stand just four wins away from the Stanley Cup.

The Blues have been one of the best stories of the NHL season climbing from last place to the Stanley Cup Final. When looking back at St. Louis’ season, there are several moments one can point to as key moments in the turnaround. Craig Berube replaced Mike Yeo as head coach on Nov. 20 and goalie Jordan Binnington got his first start with the Blues on Jan. 7 and never gave back the crease.

But the turnaround really started on Jan. 3. On that morning, the Blues were in last place. That would be the last day they would find themselves there.

And it all started with a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals.

On Jan. 3, St. Louis and Washington looked like two teams headed in opposite directions. While the Blues were in last place, the Caps were rolling with a 24-11-3 record, first in the Metropolitan Division. Washington came into St. Louis on a five-game road winning streak. As if that wasn’t enough, the Blues were also without sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

And yet, what looked like an easy win for the Caps turned into anything but. Robert Thomas scored a deflection just four minutes into the game. Washington managed to take a 2-1 lead early in the second, but St. Louis rattled off four straight goals for the 5-2 win. With Washington down only 3-2 heading into the third period, the Blues but on a possession clinic outshooting Washington 14-2 in the final frame.

"We stayed aggressive," Alex Pietrangelo told reporters. "When we're playing in the O zone, the best way to play defense is to play in their end. We kept the puck, we moved the puck, we worked. Forwards were great tonight, protecting the center of the ice. It kind of took their playmakers out of the game."

The Caps’ first shot came 13 minutes into the third. By then, the Blues already had 12 shots and two goals.

Over the course of an 82-game season, teams will lose games against teams they shouldn’t. This felt different. Watching this game, you did not come away thinking the Caps played down to an inferior team. The Blues dominated that game and the Caps knew it.

“They were skating, competing harder, won races, more determined than we were,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “If we’re being honest about it, we didn’t have a very good game, and they played a pretty darn good game.”
More importantly, St. Louis realized it as well. They knew following the game that this was a win and a performance they could build on.

“I think we out-chanced them, so we're building here at even strength,” Pietrangelo said. “It's just a matter of keeping it at even strength and scoring goals. Tonight the goals weren't necessarily pretty but we created a lot of chances."
That night proved to be the first night of the turnaround. From Jan. 3 on, no team in the NHL earned more points than St. Louis’ 65, not even the Tampa Bay Lightning who won the Presidents’ Trophy with an incredible 128 points.

St. Louis was not expected to be bad this season. The team made a number of offseason moves to bolster the roster and many thought they could be real contenders, but they sure did not play like it through the first half of the season. It took a big win over the defending Stanley Cup champs to show them and everyone else just how good they really were. From that point on, they never looked back.