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Prospect report: Samsonov leads Russia to bronze medal

Prospect report: Samsonov leads Russia to bronze medal

Hershey update: 18-8-7-2, 4th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 0-1-2-0

Liam O’Brien and Paul Carey were reassigned to Hershey on Tuesday. O’Brien was originally called up to the NHL on Friday as insurance as the Caps began a two-game road trip. That insurance turned out to be necessary as T.J. Oshie missed Monday’s game with an upper-body injury. O'Brien played Monday against Montreal and recorded 6:08 of ice time.

With 18 points this season in Hershey, O’Brien has already surpassed his 16-point total from last year.

Travis Boyd will be joining teammate Chris Bourque in the AHL All-Star game. This is his first selection. Boyd is the Bears’ leading scorer with 31 points this season.

The All-Star game will be held in Lehigh Valley on Jan. 29-30.

Zach Sanford scored two goals on Sunday in Hershey’s overtime loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. You can watch highlights of the game here:

One thing to notice about Sanford is that a lot of his highlights don’t involve tons of stickhandling or a dynamic individual effort. He takes a pass, he shoots, he scores. That’s not a knock on his abilities in any way. One of Sanford’s best attributes is his positioning. It’s something I have always loved about his game. Even when he doesn’t have the puck, he always knows where to go. Both of his goals reflect that. He's in a great position where all he has to do is finish the play.

On the first, he positioned himself on the far-side of the net, setting himself up for a shot in which the goalie would immediately be out of position. It was a difficult angle to make, but he was able to nail the shot. On the second, Sanford positions himself in the slot for the easy shot.

Those kinds of instincts can be hard to teach.

Riley Barber appears to be nearing his return as his status has been upgraded to week-to-week. Initial projections after the injury are that he would return sometime in January. The latest upgrade to his status seems to indicate he remains on pace.

RELATED: Carlson leaves Thursday's practice early with injury

Other prospect notes:

Ilya Samsonov helped lead Team Russia to a bronze medal in the IIHF World Junior Championship with a 38-save performance against Sweden. His performance earned him some high praise from Swedish forward Rasmus Asplund who said, “Samsonov is a great goalie. He can win matches for Russia, like he did today. We had a lot of chances, but we couldn’t convert them. He’s amazing. He’s going to be in the NHL pretty soon, I think.”

Samsonov finished the tournament with a 2.11 GAA and .930 save percentage, was named to the all-tournament team and was named the top goalie of the tournament.

Defenseman Connor Hobbs was named the third star in Regina’s 6-2 win on Fridayin the WHL. He recorded three assists in the game.

Hobbs continues to impress with both his play on both ends of the ice. He showed great stickhandling moves on his first assist as he skated through pressure in the neutral zone and carries the puck past the blue line before passing it off. What you don’t see as much of is his defensive acumen. Those skills don’t tend to translate well on highlight videos, but you do get a glimpse of it in his third assist as he sets up the rush with a good steal in the neutral zone.

The South Carolina Stingrays saw a seven-game win streak snapped on Wednesday, but it was still a good week for Tim McGauley who scored his first professional goal in Saturday’s win over Greenville.

MORE CAPITALS: Prediction recap: Ovechkin did not keep anyone waiting

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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.