All posts by Flip Livingstone

Trotz confirms Capitals’ lineup changes for Game 5

The Washington Capitals are shaking up their forward group a bit ahead of Saturday night's Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, head coach Barry Trotz announced to reporters, including NBC Sports Washington's Tarik El-Bashir.

Winger Andre Burakovsky will sit in favor of Alex Chiasson, who will provide Trotz with a bit more size and physicality on the wing of the fourth line along with Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly. Nicklas Backstrom will resume his natural spot on the Capitals' second line between T.J. Oshie and Chandler Stephenson.

Burakovsky's been a non-factor, registering zero points in six playoff games. Chiasson hasn't exactly been lighting it up, but he's been used by Trotz much more frequently, tallying one goal and one assist across 15 games.

With the series tied 2-2, Game 5 is set for 7:15 p.m. ET at Amalie Arena.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Sweden steamrolls U.S., advances to World Championship final

Sweden earned a 6-0 shutout victory over Team USA at the World Championship on Saturday, advancing to Sunday's gold medal game.

The Americans got off to a solid start, but the game was seemingly always Sweden's to lose, as the Tre kronor dominated play at both ends of the ice.

Swedish goaltender Anders Nilsson was rock solid, turning aside all 21 shots he faced.

The team's offensive charge was led by Viktor Arvidsson, who registered two goals, including a first-period tally that held up as the game-winner. Adrian Kempe, Patric Hornqvist, Magnus Paajarvi, and Mattias Janmark also chipped in with goals.

American netminder Keith Kinkaid made 12 saves on 16 shots in the loss.

Sweden will get a chance to defend its gold medal Sunday afternoon against the winner of Canada-Switzerland.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Solo effort: Breaking down Reilly Smith’s Game 4 snipe show

The Vegas Golden Knights wrote another chapter in their storybook season Friday night, dusting aside the Winnipeg Jets in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final thanks to Reilly Smith's third-period bar-down game-winner.

The takeaway, the blistering speed, the patience to hold the puck with defenders breathing down his neck, and then the laser-like wrister - Smith's one-man show definitely deserves a closer look.

For a full video of the goal, click here.

Blue-line behemoth Dustin Byfuglien has been a game-changing presence almost every night of the postseason, so he's potentially earned a pass from Jets fans for this gaffe.

Byfuglien fanned on a point shot and Smith sprang into action, jumping on the loose puck and quickly turning up ice with only Connor Hellebuyck in front of him.

This is when Smith's solo effort starts to get highlight-reel worthy. He shows off some impressive foot speed by leaving Chris Tanev (No. 13) in the dust, and recognizes that Josh Morrissey (No. 44) is closing in from the center of the ice.

Smith got from blue line to blue line in under two seconds, leaving Morrissey and Tanev in poor position to defend him.

Instead of waiting for his linemates or making the kind of sweet dish he's become known for, the speedy winger protected the puck from the Winnipeg defenders' outstretched sticks and switched the puck to his forehand.

Smith then quickly sized up Hellebuyck, who'd come out to the very edge of the blue paint, and unleashed a rocket to the top-left corner.

Smith beat Hellebuyck bar down over the blocker side with a perfectly placed shot that nine out of 10 goalies probably don't stop, capping off a stellar solo effort that has the expansion Golden Knights only one win from a trip to the final.

(Images courtesy: NHL.com)

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Memorial Cup Scoreboard: Day 3

The 2018 Memorial Cup runs from May 18-29 in Regina, Saskatchewan. Stay up to date with game action via our daily scoreboard (all times Eastern).

Sunday, May 20

  • 7 PM: Acadie-Bathurst Titan vs. Regina Pats

Schedule

Date Time (Eastern) Home Away Score
Friday May 18 10:00 p.m. Regina Hamilton 3-2
Saturday May 19 4:00 p.m. Swift Current Acadie-Bathurst 3-4 (OT)
Sunday May 20 7:00 p.m. Regina Acadie-Bathurst TBD
Monday May 21 8:00 p.m. Swift Current Hamilton TBD
Tuesday May 22 10:00 p.m. Acadie-Bathurst Hamilton TBD
Wednesday May 23 10:00 p.m. Regina Swift Current TBD

Visit the Mastercard Memorial Cup official site for full box scores and schedule.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Kings sign blue-liner Fantenberg to 1-year extension

The Los Angeles Kings signed rearguard Oscar Fantenberg to a one-year contract extension worth $650,000, the team announced Thursday.

Fantenberg suited up in 27 regular-season games for L.A. last campaign, registering two goals and seven assists in 14:16 of ice time per night. He also appeared in all four of the Kings' playoff games, chipping in with one assist.

The 26-year-old undrafted Swede is currently on a one-year deal worth $925,000.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Maple Leafs sign handful of prospects, including Par Lindholm

The Toronto Maple Leafs kicked off their offseason signings Thursday by inking a handful of European prospects to entry-level contracts.

Their most notable signing is Par Lindholm, who played for Sweden at PyeongChang 2018 and finished fourth in Swedish Hockey League (SHL) scoring this season after racking up 18 goals and 29 assists in 49 games for Skelleftea AIK.

The versatile forward can contribute at both ends of the ice and could be a potential fit for the Leafs' fourth-line center role.

Here are the Leafs' other signings from Thursday:

  • Pierre Engvall (F) - The 21-year-old 2014 seventh-round pick of the Leafs signed a two-year deal. He had eight points in nine regular-season games for the AHL's Toronto Marlies.
  • Igor Ozhiganov (D) - The 25-year-old signed a one-year deal after appearing in 42 games with CSKA Moscow of the KHL this season, registering two goals and seven assists.
  • Jesper Lindgren (D) - The 20-year-old 2015 fourth-round pick of the Leafs signed a three-year contract. He collected one assist in four games for the Marlies after coming over from Finland after the Liiga season.

While Engvall, Ozhiganov, and Lindgren might be hard-pressed to crack Toronto's lineup next season, Lindholm presents a little more intrigue.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Canada outlasts Russia in OT to punch semifinal ticket at worlds

Canada got the game-winner from Ryan O'Reilly 4:57 into overtime to beat Russia on Thursday and advance to the World Championship semifinals.

O'Reilly converted Connor McDavid's third assist of the game to earn the Canadians the knockout-round victory.

The back-and-forth contest had been pushed to OT when Artem Anisimov beat Darcy Kuemper with a soft backhand up high with just over five minutes left in regulation.

The Canadians also had goals from forwards Kyle Turris, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Pierre-Luc Dubois, as well as D-man Colton Parayko.

For the Big Red Machine, Alexander Barbanov, Ilya Mikheyev, and Sergei Andronov scored in the losing effort.

Canada now advances to the semifinal where it will face the winner of Thursday's afternoon quarterfinal between Finland and Switzerland.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Is this the year? How the Capitals are finally earning postseason respect

The Washington Capitals organization has been a pillar of consistency over the last decade, qualifying for the postseason an impressive 10 times in 11 seasons, but then always falling short of lofty expectations.

In fact, despite the lengthy streak of playoff berths, Washington had failed to even reach the conference finals in 20 straight campaigns leading up to last week.

It had become the norm for Presidents' Trophies, 120-plus-point regular seasons, and Stanley Cup aspirations to be dashed at the hands of Eastern Conference teams the Capitals were supposed to dust aside with relative ease.

Well, it might have taken longer than D.C. hockey fans would have liked, and parade plans might be premature, but Washington - which has won 10 of its last 12 games and holds a 2-0 series lead over Tampa Bay in the conference finals - now finds itself within striking distance of the franchise's second Stanley Cup Final in its 44-year history.

The surprising postseason run has been a symphony of solo performances and complete group efforts that has finally started earning Washington the respect of opposing teams and fans alike. Here's how:

Road warriors

The mark of any championship-caliber club is its ability to win on the road. So, what's the Capitals' record away from home in the 2018 playoffs? Try a sparkling 7-1, as they've already matched their franchise record for road wins in a single postseason.

And take a look at the numbers from Washington's opponents during those seven victories away from Capitol One Arena - let's just say the Caps haven't been an easy team to play against:

Opponent Round (Game) PPO PPG GF Result
Blue Jackets Round 1 (3) 4 0 2 3-2 Caps OTW
Blue Jackets Round 1 (4) 3 0 1 4-1 Caps W
Blue Jackets Round 1 (6) 4 0 3 6-3 Caps W
Penguins Round 2 (3) 4 1 3 4-3 Caps W
Penguins Round 2 (6) 1 0 1 2-1 Caps OTW
Lightning Round 3 (1) 3 1 2 4-2 Caps W
Lightning Round 3 (2) 4 2 2 6-2 Caps W

One key factor is that Washington has killed penalties at nearly an 83 percent clip in the road victories, extinguishing 19 of 23 power-play chances for its opponents.

Another has been the Capitals' ability to cancel out home-ice advantage by scoring the first goal in all seven road wins, taking the opposing crowd out of the game from the jump.

Power-play proficiency

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

While the PK has been stingy, the Capitals' PP has been filling the back of the net more than any other unit this postseason, registering a league-high 16 goals on 49 chances for a impressive 32.7 percent conversion rate.

Leading that charge has been T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, and John Carlson - a group that head coach Barry Trotz has deployed 60 percent of the time over the past 10 games. And lately, Lars Eller has slotted in admirably for Backstrom - who's missed the last three games with an upper-body injury - but his time for recognition is coming shortly.

Making opponents pay on special teams has certainly been a crucial aspect of Washington's overall offensive output during the first three rounds.

Bottom-six forwards stepping up

Backstrom's injury opened the door for Eller, but the rest of Washington's bottom six has done its part, too. Guys like Devante Smith-Pelly, Jay Beagle, and Chandler Stephenson have been sensational despite playing limited minutes.

In addition to eating up time on the PK and sacrificing their bodies with crucial shot blocks, Smith-Pelly, Beagle, and Stephenson have even chipped in with some clutch playmaking and scoring, combining for seven goals and seven assists through the first 14 playoff games.

As for Eller, he's served as the second-line center since Backstrom's injury during Game 5 against Pittsburgh last round, and hasn't looked out of place. The 29-year-old Dane has two goals and two assists while averaging just under 20 minutes a night alongside Oshie and Jakub Vrana.

Eller is just the most recent example of a bottom-six forward stepping up for Washington, as that entire crew has been doing it since the end of April.

Ovi, Kuzy wreaking havoc

There could be an entire piece dedicated to this section, considering how insanely good Kuznetsov and Ovechkin have been since the playoffs began. But given the nature of this piece, let's just shine a bit of light on the duo's sensational offensive output over the 14 postseason games:

Player Goals Assists ATOI CF% S%
Ovechkin 10 9 21:33 61.6 17.5
Kuznetsov 8 11 21:40 60.3 16.3

There's no denying that Kuzy and Ovi have been on complete tears, but winger Tom Wilson has been the final piece rounding out Washington's top line. And he's played an important role, too, racking up three goals and six assists in 11 games.

Ovechkin and Kuznetsov - with the chippy Wilson adding an element of sandpaper - have been giving opposing blue-liners fits with their stellar puck possession and elite offensive skill sets.

It's been a long time coming for Ovechkin, who's been hearing for his entire career that he doesn't have what it takes to get his team over the top. It's probably safe to say that played-out narrative's days in the sun are nearing an end.

Beastly blue line

Last, but certainty not least, the Capitals' D-core has been instrumental in the club reaching this point.

The top-four group of Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, Michal Kempny, and John Calrson has been rock-solid while also contributing offensively. In fact, Carlson has already turned in the best offensive postseason from a defenseman in Capitals history.

Carlson's point haul now sits at 14, while Washington's defensemen have combined for six goals and 26 assists overall.

Beyond the scoring, this group's play in its own end has been paramount to the Capitals' success. Washington has limited opponents to 29.8 shots per game, the lowest of the remaining teams. And despite not boasting a bona fide star on the back end, the defense has bent, but not broken.

Undoubtedly, anything can happen over the next few games, and the Lightning are far from out of it. But it's tough to bet against Ovechkin and his gang of underappreciated men as they continue to command respect and prove their place as contenders in a postseason where most expected them to remain pretenders.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Predators announce list of players injured during playoffs

The Nashville Predators had legit Stanley Cup aspirations until their dream season was unceremoniously cut short by a deep and talented Winnipeg Jets squad last week.

On Monday, general manager David Poile spoke to the media to address his team's finish, offseason approach, and health, announcing a handful of players who got hurt during its postseason run:

  • Mike Fisher (F) - Was playing through a meniscus injury, would have likely been available for Stanley Cup Final had Nashville qualified.
  • Ryan Hartman (F) - Suffered an injured shoulder that will require offseason surgery; recovery time is expected to be four to five months.
  • Calle Jarnkrok (F) - Dealt with an injured shoulder that kept him out of the lineup for some playoff games; will make full recovery prior to training camp.

Despite finishing with a league-best 117 points and the franchise's first Presidents' Trophy, the season will ultimately be deemed a failure for Poile and Co., as the Predators entered the campaign as one of the favorites to be named Cup champs.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Trotz: Backstrom’s return from injury is up to him

The Washington Capitals stunned the hockey world with their Game 1 and 2 victories over the Tampa Bay Lightning in South Florida, and they did it despite star centerman Nicklas Backstrom being sidelined with an upper-body injury.

However, Caps head coach Barry Trotz told the media on Monday that Backstrom is "day to day" and the decision to return to the lineup is completely up to him, according to Isabelle Khurshudyan of The Washington Post.

Backstrom left Game 5 of Washington's second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third period and has not seen any game action since.

Prior to getting hurt, Backstrom was in the midst of a sensational postseason, racking up three goals and 10 assists through 11 games.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.