A Playoff Shutout, Franson MVP, Canada-U.S. Border Battle, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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A Playoff Shutout, Franson MVP, Canada-U.S. Border Battle, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

If I sound like a broken record, sorry not sorry, these Stanley Cup Playoffs have been awesome. You really couldn’t have much more drama around the sport at a better time. From historic moments to throwing shade at your coaches and everything in-between, the Stanley Cup seriously brings anything and everything out of hockey this time of year. With wins by the Lightning and Golden Knights yesterday, two more series’ are closer to coming to an end, while the Bruins could close out the Capitals tonight and the Avalanche have an opportunity today to sweep the St. Louis Blues. That would be a Sunday treat.

•   One series with the most eyes on it has been the Maple Leafs and Canadiens, an Original Six matchup that the NHL hasn’t seen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in over 40 years.

•   Game One one to Montreal, but the storyline coming out of it was the scary injury to Maple Leafs Captain John Tavares. The good news for Tavares is that he is seemingly healthy after the collision with Corey Perry, suffering a leg injury and a concussion on the play. He released a statement yesterday, thanking the fans and medical staff for getting him through the ordeal.

•   We also learned a little bit of what was happening on the ice while Tavares was down and receiving medical attention. Teammate Jason Spezza was beside Tavares for nearly the entire time, helping communicate with him in the immediate moments after the collision.

•   That’s gut-churning stuff. And then the Maple Leafs were expected to go out and continue Game One. Tough task.

•  Game Two however went much better for the Maple Leafs, with a 5-1 win over the Canadiens to even the series at 1-1 heading to Montreal.

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•   Fitting that Jason Spezza scored the Leafs first goal to tie the game in the first period.

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•   And also fitting that Auston Matthews came through for the eventual game-winning goal as Toronto was on their way to a 5-1 finish.

•   Being down your Captain is extremely difficult. Trust me, Blackhawks fans know this. But the Maple Leafs are so deep and talented that they still have a great chance of going deep into the postseason even with Tavares out for however long he will be out. I still like their chances of taking this series over Montreal.

•   Not to be lost in the many storylines of this series is the internal disconnect between some players and the Canadiens front office/coaching staff. After scoring the game’s opening goal, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who was a healthy scratch for Game One, held up four fingers towards the Canadiens suite box where the other healthy-scratched players sit during the game. Included in those healthy scratches are young talents Cole Caufield and Alexander Romanov.

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•   In a sign of solidarity, Kotkaniemi made a statement, as subtle and not so subtle as it was, that those players should also be playing in the series with him. Especially rookie Cole Caufield.

•   Montreal celebrated the arrival of 2019 first-round pick Caufield to the NHL late this season like he was a knight in shining armor, coming to help the team in the postseason. Then he was sat for Games One and Two, while the Canadiens scored just three goals in those two games. Caufield, a goal-scoring machine in his Junior and NCAA careers, scored four goals in his 10 NHL games this season and would be an offensive spark that the Canadiens miss. Yet he sits in the press box.

•   Possible. Ha.

•  Moving West, the Vegas Golden Knights have displayed why so many believe this is the year that the expansion Golden Knight win the Stanley Cup. A deeply talented team, a 4-0 shutout win over the Wild yesterday gave them a stronghold on the series, leading 3-1.

•   Mark Stone loves scoring goals and I love seeing him love it. Guy is so underratedly good.

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•   A player that no one is underrating this postseason is Marc-Andre Fleury. The Vezina candidate made 35 saves in the shutout performance yesterday, tying Curtis Joseph for third all-time in Stanley Cup Playoff shutouts with 16. He trails only Patrick Roy (23) and Martin Brodeur (24).

•   A Robin Lehner sighting!

•   Lehner’s former team, the New York Islanders had a party in Game Four yesterday, tying the series at 2-2 with a pouring-on of the Penguins in a 4-1 win. Feeling the flow, New York Jets lineman Dan Feeney was bringing the heat and energy at the Nassau Coliseum.

•   Also bringing the heat for the Islanders was rookie Oliver Wahlstrom, tallying his first career multi-point game with an assist and a goal. Although his goal was also assisted on by Teddy Blueger of the Penguins…

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•   I want Feeney’s energy to carry over into tonight where we are treated to Game Four between the Avalanche and Blues, Game Five between the Bruins and Capitals, Game Four between the Hurricanes and Predators, and Game Three between the Oilers and Jets. It’s a full plate again and I’m hungry!

•   Ok, time to tone it down for the non-Playoff Blackhawks.

•   Closing out their team awards, the Rockford IceHogs named their 2021 Team MVP yesterday. Congratulations to veteran defenseman Cody Franson!

•   Speaking of IceHogs, or future IceHogs, The Athletic’s Scott Powers talks with newly signed goaltender Arvid Soderblöm and his coaches to get a better idea of what the Blackhawks organization is getting in the 21-year-old Swedish net minder. Check it out:

•   Speaking of Sweden, they are struggling at the beginning of these IIHF World Championships, being upset by Denmark in their first game and now Belarus in their second game in the tournament. Yikes. They are a team without any Blackhawks on their international roster for the tournament, but for teams with Chicago players, there are two games to keep an eye on today:

•   Philipp Kurashev looks to help the Swiss side to a second win in as many days as they take on the upset-minded Danes. In the  first border battle of North America in the tournament, Canada looks to bounce back after their upset loss to host nation Latvia as they take on the also 0-1 United States. Brandon Hagel, Brandon Pirri, and Nicolas Beaudin look to top the States and get the Canadians back on track in the tournament.

•   Lastly in the Blackhawks world, a Happy Birthday to former Blackhawks defenseman and 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Brian Campbell!

•   Campbell now serves with the Blackhawks as a player development coach and has helped the career of the young defensemen in the Blackhawks system like Adam Boqvist and Alec Regula in his time in the role.

•   A huge congratulations to the Chicago Steel on winning their second-ever Clark Cup in the USHL after topping the Fargo Force 3-1 in Game Four to win the best-of-five series 3-1.

•   After dropping Game One to the Force 3-0, the Steel won Games Two, Three, and Four by a combined score of 14-3, allowing just one goal in each of the final three games. That’s how you respond.

•   That will do it for today. Have yourselves a good Sunday!



Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.