All posts by Sean O'Leary

Stone, O’Reilly, Bergeron named Selke finalists

Mark Stone, Ryan O'Reilly, and Patrice Bergeron are the finalists for the 2019 Selke Trophy as the NHL's top forward who best excels in defensive aspects of the game, the league announced Wednesday.

Stone, who was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline, is the lone winger up for the award but is certainly deserving of recognition. The 26-year-old notched a career-high 73 points while maintaining a Corsi For relative to his teammates of 8.6 and notching 122 takeaways. A winger hasn't won the award since Jere Lehtinen in 2002-03.

O'Reilly made a tremendous impact in his debut season with the St. Louis Blues, also hitting a career high in points with 77. He started over 50 percent of his even-strength shifts in the defensive zone and was dominant in the faceoff circle, winning 56.9 percent of his draws.

Bergeron is up for the award for a seventh consecutive year. If he's chosen, he'll be the only player in NHL history to win the Selke five times. The 33-year-old appeared in just 65 games this season but notched 79 points, boasted a Corsi For rating of 57 percent, and won 56.6 percent of his faceoffs.

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Cooper laments lack of meaningful games leading up to playoffs

It turns out the Tampa Bay Lightning's historic regular season was all for naught.

The Bolts were in first place for virtually the entire 2018-19 campaign, and cruised to the Presidents' Trophy thanks to a dominant 128-point output. Appropriately, Tampa was labeled favorite to roll over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round and march to the Stanley Cup, but head coach Jon Cooper believes a lack of important games down the stretch did his club in through their stunning first-round sweep.

"When you have the amount of points we had, it's a blessing and a curse in away, because you don't play, really, any meaningful hockey for a long time and all of the sudden you have to amp it up," Cooper said postgame, according to Sportsnet. "It's not an excuse, it's reality."

Tuesday's defeat marks the latest playoff heartbreak for the Lightning, who had lost in the Stanley Cup Final and two Eastern Conference Finals since 2015 before this year's unfathomable exit.

"We just couldn't find our game, that was it," Cooper said. "It had been with us all year, and for six days in April, we couldn't find it. It's unfortunate because it puts a blemish on what was one hell of a regular season."

The Lightning didn't lose three consecutive games once during the regular season. Dating back to 2018's Eastern Conference Final, they have now lost six straight playoff contests.

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Blue Jackets sweep Lightning for 1st-ever series win

The Columbus Blue Jackets have pulled off the unthinkable, eliminating the 62-win Tampa Bay Lightning from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a four-game, first-round sweep with a 7-3 victory Tuesday night.

It's the first series win in the history of the Blue Jackets franchise, and the first time in the modern era that a Presidents' Trophy winner has been swept in the first round, according to Sportsnet Stats.

Columbus blitzed Tampa once again to start Game 4, scoring two goals in the opening four minutes to set the tone. The Lightning clawed back to make it 3-3 in the second period, but a power-play marker from Oliver Bjorkstrand with 1:14 remaining in the middle frame put the Jackets back up for good. They added three empty-netters late in the third to seal the deal.

Tampa Bay entered the playoffs as the overwhelming favorite to win the Stanley Cup after accruing 128 regular-season points. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, were the final team in the Eastern Conference to qualify for the postseason, sneaking in as the second wild-card seed on the second-last day of the regular season.

The Blue Jackets are the first team to advance in the 2019 playoffs and will face the winner of the Maple Leafs-Bruins series in Round 2.

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Brind’Amour bothered by Ovechkin’s role in fight with Svechnikov

Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour wasn't thrilled with Alexander Ovechkin after his fight with rookie Andrei Svechnikov in Game 3 on Monday night.

The Russian countrymen dropped the gloves in the first period, and the much bigger Ovechkin dropped Svechnikov to the ice with a powerful right hand. Carolina's rookie was helped to the dressing room by trainers and didn't return due to an upper-body injury.

"If you watch the video, he slashes him twice - Ovi, whack, whack - then Svech gets him back," Brind'Amour said, per ESPN's Emily Kaplan. "I don't know if there's words exchanged but, one guy's gloves come off way first. And that's Ovi, not our guy. So it's a little bit frustrating because he got hurt. It's his first fight. He's played 90 games. He's never fought in his life, and I'm pretty sure Ovi knew that. So that stuff bothers me."

The Hurricanes drafted Svechnikov second overall in the 2018 draft, and the skillful winger put up 37 points in 82 games before notching three points in the opening two games of the first-round series.

"Svech means a lot to us," Brind'Amour said. "Young kid. Just turned 19. He has a special bond with our group, with me too. When you see that it makes you sick. I'm still sick to my stomach about it."

After the Hurricanes' 5-0 win, Ovechkin said Svechnikov challenged him to square off, and that he hopes he's OK.

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Watch: Ovechkin knocks Svechnikov to ice in ruthless fight

Alex Ovechkin and Andrei Svechnikov dropped the gloves early in Game 3 on Monday night, and it went poorly for the Carolina Hurricanes rookie.

Ovechkin sent Svechnikov to the ice with a heavy right hand, and the 19-year-old needed assistance to get to Carolina's locker room. He won't return to the game due to an upper-body injury, according to the Hurricanes' public relations staff.

Svechnikov, listed at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, was severely overmatched by his countryman, who comes in at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds.

Carolina also lost forward Micheal Ferland for the remainder of the game with an upper-body injury.

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Kadri suspended for remainder of 1st round for cross-check on DeBrusk

Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri has been suspended for the remainder of the first round for his cross-check to the face of Boston Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk in Game 2 of the teams' first-round series, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced after an in-person hearing Monday.

It marks the second year in a row where Kadri has been dealt a suspension in the playoffs, as he was given a three-game ban for a hit on former Bruins forward Tommy Wingels last season. It's the fifth time he's been suspended by the league in his 10-year career.

Kadri went after DeBrusk late in the third period Saturday night after the Bruins winger laid a hard hit on Leafs forward Patrick Marleau. Kadri and DeBrusk had gone at it numerous times throughout the first two games of the series before the veteran Leaf lost his cool with the cross-check, which also drew a five-minute major and an ejection.

DeBrusk left the game and underwent a series of tests but will be in Boston's lineup for Game 3 on Monday in Toronto. He's been held pointless in two contests so far.

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Reaves responds to Thornton’s jab with chirps about his age

Joe Thornton may have started a war of words with his playful jabs at the expense of Vegas Golden Knights enforcer Ryan Reaves on Sunday night.

Reaves responded Monday by taking a shot at the 39-year-old Thorton over his impending hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety over his hit to the head of Vegas winger Tomas Nosek during Game 3 and his insistence that he "barely touched him."

"I've got a buddy with a grandpa going through the same thing," Reaves said, according to Justin Emerson of the Las Vegas Sun. "He can't see very well because he's getting old. Needs glasses. If he gets suspended he's going to have a hard time seeing from the press box."

With three hard-fought games in the books already, it appears this series just gained another level of intrigue. The two teams meet Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. ET with Vegas holding a 2-1 lead.

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Blue Jackets sign KHL’s Gavrikov to 2-year, entry-level deal

The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov to a two-year, entry-level contract, the team announced Saturday.

Columbus drafted Gavrikov in the sixth round of the 2015 draft and has been working to bring him to North America since his season with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL ended earlier this week.

"Vladislav is an outstanding defenseman who excels at both ends of the ice," Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. "He is big, strong, and mobile and has enjoyed a successful career in the KHL and in international competition, including winning an Olympic gold medal last year. We are very excited about his future with the Columbus Blue Jackets."

Gavrikov, a 23-year-old left-handed shot, notched five goals and 15 assists in 60 KHL games this season.

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Report: McDavid suffered small PCL tear, no surgery required

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid suffered a small tear of the posterior cruciate ligament in his knee during his violent crash into the net in the club's season finale, and won't require surgery, sources told TSN's Darren Dreger.

McDavid should be ready to start the 2019-20 regular season, Dreger adds.

Late Friday, the Oilers announced they've determined a rehab plan for their superstar, which he will begin immediately.

McDavid was tripped by Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano on April 6, and spiraled leg-first into the post at top speed. He, along with the hockey world, immediately feared the worst, and the 22-year-old said he thought his leg was in "two pieces" after the collision.

Any sort of major injury to McDavid would have added serious concern to an already critical offseason for the Oilers, who are searching for a new general manager and potentially a head coach after missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Aside from the injury scare, McDavid had a marvelous campaign, ranking second in the league with a career-high 116 points in 78 games.

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