Date: May 12, 2017

Day Eight At The Worlds

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Jerome Pugmire – The Associated Press

PARIS — Stephane Da Costa saved France in a tense 4-3 shootout win against Belarus that kept its quarterfinal hopes alive, while co-host Germany lost to Denmark in overtime at the ice hockey world championship on Friday.

With the top four from each group going through to Thursday’s quarterfinals, Germany was in fifth place in Group A and France at sixth in Group B.

Belarus rallied from 2-0 down and led 3-2 in regulation before co-host France equalized with about seven minutes remaining to force overtime in front of a nervous home crowd in Paris.

France totally rode its luck, however, as Belarus hit the post at the end of regulation and right at the start of overtime, and then blew the chance to win the shootout when France missed twice.

With France trailing 1-0 in the shootout, veteran goaltender Cristobal Huet saved from Andrei Stas and — after Da Costa kept France in it with an assured finish — made another stop from Alexander Pavlovich to send the match into sudden death.

With the shooters reversed, Belarus went first and Mikhail Stefanovich — who put Belarus ahead in the shootout — was foiled by the vastly experienced Huet. Up stepped Da Costa and he confidently drew goalie Kevin Lalande before slotting through his legs for another composed shot under pressure.

The nerveless Da Costa also scored the shootout winner against Switzerland on Tuesday.

Germany also led 2-0 in Cologne, scoring twice inside a minute during the first period through wingers Patrick Reimer and Brooks Macek.

But the Danes levelled before the end of the period through left winger Frederik Storm and centre Morten Poulsen, and won the match 3-2 when Peter Regin scored in overtime off a pass from Nikolaj Ehlers.

“We were extremely tired, but Nik is one of the fastest skaters in the world and he somehow created a two-on-one for us,” Regin said, describing his winner. “I was lucky to get a break and put it five hole.”

Germany did not start first-choice goalie Thomas Greiss for the must-win game, despite Greiss making 42 saves last Friday to help beat the United States 2-1.

Germany is three points behind fourth-place Latvia ahead of their crucial match on Tuesday at the Lanxess arena.

At least Germany will be strengthened by the arrival of rising star Leon Draisaitl, whose hat trick for the Edmonton Oilers against the Anaheim Ducks last Sunday was the first by a German-born player in the NHL playoffs.

“Leon will help us a lot. He had an incredible year in the NHL for such a young player,” Germany forward Felix Schutz said. “He’s the best German player we’ve ever had. He’s going to give us some offence and on the power play.”

Earlier in Group B, centre Roman Horak scored twice as the Czech Republic beat Slovenia 5-1. Right winger Michal Repik, defenceman Michal Kempny and centre Roman Cervenka also scored.

The win moved the 2010 champion into second place in Group B, two points behind leader Canada, which is chasing a third straight title.

Centre Elias Lindholm scored his fifth of the tournament as nine-time champion Sweden moved up to second in Group A by crushing last-placed Italy 8-1.

Sweden’s other goals came from Victor Rask, defencemen Philip Holm and Jonas Brodin, Linus Omark, Carl Klingberg, Joel Eriksson Ek, and John Klingberg. Center William Nylander had three assists while Lindholm assisted Rask.

Stanley Cup Outlook Before Conference Finals

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By Alec Nathan – Bleacher Report

The NHL‘s conference finals are set following a pair of Game 7s on Wednesday night.

In the evening’s first tilt, the Pittsburgh Penguins dispatched the Washington Capitals 2-0 in hostile territory to set up an Eastern Conference showdown against the Ottawa Senators—who sent the New York Rangers packing thanks to a 4-2 win in Game 6 on Tuesday night.

The nightcap, meanwhile, featured the Anaheim Ducks taking home a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers to snag a spot in the Western Conference Final against the Nashville Predators.

With those matchups locked in, here’s an overview of what to expect as the chase for the Stanley Cup heats up.

Eastern Conference: Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

If the regular season were any indication, the Penguins and Senators may well engage in an explosive set of contests.

In the teams’ first meeting, on Dec. 5, the Penguins captured a whopping 8-5 victory at PPG Paints Arena thanks to a hat trick from Bryan Rust. However, the Senators counterpunched a month later by thrashing the Penguins 4-1 back at Canadian Tire Centre.

The rubber match on March 23 wasn’t quite as high-scoring, but it was a nail-biter that saw the Senators escape with a narrow 2-1 shootout victory.

Now primed for a postseason collision, the Penguins appear to have a slight edge on the Senators as Game 1 approaches.

Although Ottawa will have the benefit of extra rest after they escaped Round 2 in six games, Pittsburgh is coming off a statement win over the top-seeded Washington Capitals.

Combine that triumph with home-ice advantage and the fact the Penguins have been able to stave off injury-induced adversity, with Matt Murray, Trevor Daley, Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang all banged up to varying degrees, and the defending champions should be a force to be reckoned with.

That’s not to say the Senators won’t put up a fight.

Not only is Erik Karlsson—who tallied seven points against the Penguins in the regular season—dialed in and playing as well as any player left in the playoffs, but goaltender Craig Anderson has proved brilliant at times—including Game 6 against New York, when he racked up 37 saves to send the Rangers packing.

“He was extremely calm,” head coach Guy Boucher said of Anderson in Game 6, per the Ottawa Citizen‘s Don Brennan. “If you look at his saves, a lot of them, they’re right in his stomach. And it’s not necessarily shots that were thrown at his stomach. It’s because he was there. He made it look sometimes easier than it was.”

Anderson should propel the Senators to a couple of wins, but the Penguins simply have too much firepower to be contained for extended stretches.

Prediction: Penguins in 6

Western Conference: Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks

The lone division champion remaining in the playoffs, the Ducks will be tasked with holding their ground against a Predators team that has been scalding since the postseason started.

As if a first-round sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks weren’t impressive enough, the Predators dispatched the St. Louis Blues in six games and have enjoyed an extended rest following Sunday’s 3-1 series-clinching victory.

“I don’t think I can stress it enough,” defenseman Mattias Ekholm said of the rest and short travel times to this point in the playoffs, per Brooks Bratten of the team’s official website. “I really felt that in the Game 7 [against the San Jose Sharks] last year, the gas kind of ran out. Right now, two short series with travel, four games, six games, it’s almost too good to be true. We’ve really got to emphasize that we’re in a good spot and take advantage of the rest that we’re getting.”

However, the Predators are in for a shakeup now that they’ll have to travel to California to face a Ducks team that will enjoy home-ice advantage after shaking off some historical postseason woes by virtue of Wednesday’s win over Edmonton, according to NHL Public Relations on Twitter:

Thanks to their resilience, the Ducks will enter the Western Conference Final riding a wave of positive momentum as they seek a return to the championship series for the first time since 2007. 

That said, they’ll have to solve a stingy Predators defense that has allowed a grand total of 14 goals through 10 playoff games.

To put that number in perspective, the other two teams that allowed 14 goals in the playoffs—the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames—participated in 10 playoff games combined before bowing out of this year’s proceedings. 

The Predators are in for a lengthier battle as the scene gets set to shift to the Golden State, but with P.K. Subban and Pekka Rinne leading the charge, they should be able to put the clamps on the Ducks just enough to slip by. 

Prediction: Predators in 7  

Canada’s bid for a fifth Olympic women’s hockey gold starts with 28 hopefuls

By Donna SpencerThe Canadian Press

Half the players invited to try out for Canada’s Olympic women’s hockey team know what’s coming. The other half don’t.

Jillian Saulnier has heard veterans talk about meltdowns during the gruelling six months it takes to choose the Olympic team and prepare to battle for gold.

“Now we laugh about it,” forward Marie-Philip Poulin said. “We didn’t laugh at that moment.”

Saulnier of Halifax and Poulin of Beauceville, Que., were among the 28 invitees announced Thursday by Hockey Canada.

Those who don’t live in Calgary will be there by Aug. 1 to train full time and play more than 50 games before the Winter Olympics next February in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“I’ve heard some stories, pretty good stories honestly,” Saulnier said. “It just seems to be like the time when the girls really come together and find out what really works to be successful.”

Those chosen will attempt to extend the country’s run of gold in women’s hockey to five straight.

But first, the 28 candidates will participate in a 20-day boot camp in June to prepare them for the rigours of what’s called centralization.

“I know the group of people we have selected are warriors,” head coach Laura Schuler said. “I know we have the right people in terms of our centralization roster. We have the depth, we have the talent.”

Countries are now allowed 23 players — three goaltenders and 20 skaters — on their women’s teams compared to the previous limit of three and 18.

Canada’s Olympic team is expected to be named in late December.

The U.S. has won seven of the last eight world championships beating Canada in overtime in the finals of the most recent two.

Canada’s Pyeongchang hopefuls were selected by Schuler, assistant coaches Dwayne Gylywoychuk and Troy Ryan and Hockey Canada general manager of national team programs Melody Davidson.

Players were chosen based on their previous performances with the national team, and their club or university teams.

“Difficult doesn’t even do it justice,” Davidson said. “It was agonizing.

“We just wanted the most talent available. Scoring goals is a big thing. We’ve lost twice in overtime.”

Poulin scored both the equalizer and overtime winner in 2014, when Canada rallied from a two-goal deficit with less than four minutes to go to beat the U.S. and claim gold again.

She and Brianne Jenner of Oakville, Ont., who also scored to spark the comeback, were among 14 alumni from that victorious squad summoned back for another shot at Olympic gold.

“It’s long season and the stakes are very high,” Jenner said. “This is everyone’s dream to play in the Olympics. As much as we’re coming together, we’re also battling for spots.”

Sisters Sarah and Amy Potomak of Aldergrove, B.C., defenceman Micah Hart of Saanichton, B.C., Saulnier and Blayre Turnbull of Stellarton, N.S., make this centralization roster the most coast to coast of any before it.

“It’s a tribute to the work the branches are doing, the buy-in on female hockey,” Davidson said. “Every province has somebody dedicated to female hockey.”

Edmonton’s Shannon Szabados, Genevieve Lacasse of Kingston, Ont., and Ann-Renee Desbiens of La Malbaie, Que., are Canada’s three goaltenders battling for coveted Olympic starts.

But Hockey Canada took the unusual step of naming two alternate goalies: Erica Howe of Orleans, Ont., and Emerance Maschmeyer of Bruderheim, Alta.

“The reality is there could be injuries, they could get sick,” Davidson explained. “We wanted them to make sure they kept training and preparing just in case we needed them on any type of recall.”

The women will again play 30 games against midget-triple A boys’ teams in Alberta as they have in previous Olympic seasons.

Those games simulate the pace of games against the U.S. and give the Canada an advantage over other countries who don’t get that type of competition.

“The midget league is our bread and butter,” Davidson said. “The buy-in from all those teams and coaches, they want to help us win a gold medal.

“They do whatever we need whenever we play them, which is terrific.”