May 26 — Surprises, Hats & Safe at Home

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CORAL ANNIVERSARY: Hockey’s favorite ageless wonder, Jaromír Jágr, plans to return to Rytíři Kladno in 2022-23 for the 50-year-old’s 35th professional season. Jágr, the owner of Kladno, finished seventh in scoring on a team led by ex-Montreal Canadiens forward Tomáš Plekanec. 

BACK TO ST. LOUIS: With their season on the brink, the St. Louis Blues stunned a raucous Ball Arena by rallying from a three-goal deficit, scoring a game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation and winning a 5-4 overtime thriller to stave off elimination against the Colorado Avalanche. Tyler Bozak’s OT winner sends the two teams back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Friday night.

WILSON SIDELINED 6-8 MONTHS: Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee Tuesday. Wilson will be out for 6-8 months while he recovers from the surgery after suffering the injury in the Capitals’ Game 1 against the Florida Panthers in the first round. 

THORNTON & BRUNETTE’S FUTURES IN FLORIDA: Andrew Brunette wants to return as the Florida Panthers head coach, while Joe Thornton will decide this summer if he will return for a 25th season. Brunette, who replaced Joel Quenneville on Oct. 29, feels he did enough in his first year as a head coach, going 51-18-6 en route to leading the Panthers to a Presidents’ Trophy. Meanwhile, Thornton will talk with his family to see if another season is in the cards. Both will ultimately come down to general manager Bill Zito, who has yet to commit to either decision.

Top Shelf Thursday – Top 2022 Postseason Hat Tricks

There have been eight hat tricks celebrated this postseason—can you believe it? Let’s break down some of our favorites from the first two rounds of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Nathan MacKinnon: Game 5 vs St. Louis Blues

Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon blew our minds last night as he scored a filthy coast-to-coast goal to complete his first hat trick of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. There is honestly not much to say, as the tally would have been the series winner if it wasn’t for Robert Thomas’ goal with 56 seconds left in the third period. 

Nazem Kadri: Game 4 vs St. Louis Blues

Those moments leading up to Nazem Kadri’s first career playoff hat trick gave fans a little bit of everything. The drama surrounding Kadri’s collision with Blues goalie Jordan Binnington intensified by the accusation that the goaltender threw a water bottle at the Avalanche forward during an interview. Additionally, Blues fans made threats against Kadri over social media, which unfortunately led to increased police presence at the Avalanche’s hotel and players’ entrance at Enterprise Center in St. Louis. Kadri got the final laugh in Game 4 as he scored three goals securing his team’s victory as the Blues inched closer to a possible elimination. 

Evander Kane: Game 3 vs Calgary Flames

Regardless of your opinion of Evander Kane, it’s hard to deny that he has fit perfectly into the Edmonton Oilers lineup. Kane is the only player to score two hat tricks (he has one in each round). His second three-goal night came in Game 3 of the Battle Alberta as he earned a hat trick in six minutes in the second period. Of course, superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl factored in on Kane’s goals, but you have to give credit where it’s due. Edmonton’s first line has been electric, and Kane has been reaping the benefits of playing on a line with two of the best in the league. 

Matthew Tkachuk: Game 1 vs Edmonton Oilers

The Battle of Alberta started with a bang as the Calgary Flames defeated the Edmonton Oilers 9-6. Another hat trick occurred in front of the home fans as Matthew Tkachuk earned his first three-goal night in the postseason. Brother Brady and parents Chantal and Keith were in the stands, and as the hats made their way to the ice, the camera caught Keith refusing to part with his favorite lid. It was another off-ice moment for fans to enjoy, as the Battle of Alberta has been everything as advertised. 

Playoff Check-In: The Surprises

We’re now through 68 games over the 2022 NHL Playoffs, and as you might expect, some things have played out rather predictably to date. Connor McDavid leads the postseason scoring race, and seven of the 10 series decided saw the higher seed triumph. So far, the only team through to the final four happens to be the two-time Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning—not exactly underdogs!

However, despite the success of those favorites, plenty of unforeseen heroes continue to have their day in the sun. Here are four of the biggest surprises we’ve witnessed at this stage of the league’s second season:

Evander Kane – Edmonton Oilers

Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Joining forces with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will do wonders for anyone’s game, but what Evander Kane has accomplished extends beyond merely riding shotgun alongside superstars. Four months removed from being available to any team as a waived free agent, Kane has scored a league-high 12 goals in 11 games, including a pair of hat tricks. Already, the 30-year-old has scored twice as many goals this postseason as he had in his career.

Antti Raanta – Carolina Hurricanes

If the Frederik Andersen injury didn’t doom the playoff chances of the Carolina Hurricanes, you’d have had to assume that the club’s offensive power outage (20 goals in their past nine games) would. Instead, the Canes have a chance to move one win away from the Eastern Conference Final tonight, thanks in part to the play of Antti Raanta in goal. The veteran Finn is sporting a sparkling 2.09 goals-against average and .931% save percentage thus far this postseason.

Andrew Copp – New York Rangers

Andrew Copp, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The New York Rangers’ acquisition cost for landing Andrew Copp at the trade deadline (two second-round draft picks and a fifth) wasn’t cheap, but it’s safe to say that the draft capital surrendered has been worth it for what the 27-year-old has brought. After notching eight goals and 10 assists upon arrival from Winnipeg, Copp has carried that production into the playoffs with five goals and five assists in 11 games.

St. Louis Blues

This one, we’re giving to the whole team. A second-round series with the powerhouse Colorado Avalanche that looked rather one-sided suddenly sees the St. Louis Blues returning home with a chance to force a Game 7. On the road in Game 5 last night, with backup Ville Husso replacing an injured Jordan Binnington, the Blues erased a 3-0 deficit and rallied again with a game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation before Tyler Bozak silenced the Colorado faithful in overtime. Play Gloria?

Playoff Home Cooking

Carolina’s road playoff woes continued on Tuesday night when the Rangers won 4-1 in New York to even up the second-round series at two games apiece. Heading back to Carolina for Game 5, the Hurricanes are now 6-0 at home and 0-5 on the road this postseason and were able to squeak by the Boston Bruins in seven games despite not winning away from home.

It’s been a tale of two teams (home & away) for Max Domi and the Hurricanes so far this postseason (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Carolina outscored the Bruins by 18-6 in its four home wins but was outscored 14-6 by Boston in the three road losses. Through four games against the Rangers, the Hurricanes hold a 4-1 home goal advantage but are getting outscored 7-2 away from the friendly confines of PNC Arena. Only two teams in NHL history have played double-digit games in a single postseason without winning a road game.

1992 Montreal Canadiens (11 Games)

Led by Vezina Trophy winner Patrick Roy, the Canadiens finished the 1991-92 regular season with 93 points, good for first place in the Adams Division and third in the Prince of Wales Conference. They drew the Hartford Whalers, who finished the season with 65 points, the worst among all playoff teams. Despite the sizable gap in regular season performance, the series went the distance. In the first five games, Montreal outscored Hartford by a combined total of 14-6 in three home wins and was outscored 8-3 in two road losses.

Patrick Roy and the Habs didn’t win a road game during the 1992 playoffs but won it all the next year (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Each of the final two games of the series went past regulation, as the Whalers won Game 6 in overtime at home and the Canadiens won Game 7 in double overtime in Montreal. Boston swept the Canadiens in the next round, ending the Habs’ postseason with a 4-2 record at home while going 0-5 on the road. However, Montreal would bounce back, winning the Stanley Cup the following season.

1976 Toronto Maple Leafs (10 Games)

The Maple Leafs finished third in the Adams Division (and the Prince of Wales Conference) during the 1975-76 regular season with 93 points. Toronto faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins to open the postseason, a team that finished the season with 82 points. Back then, the playoff structure featured 12 teams (out of the 18 total in the league), with the first round being a best-of-three and the final three rounds being best-of-seven. Toronto beat Pittsburgh 4-1 at home in Game 1, lost 2-0 in Game 2 on the road, and won Game 3 4-0 at the Gardens to close out the series.

Darryl Sittler and the 1975-76 Maple Leafs didn’t lose a single home playoff game, but they also didn’t win a single away game (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

In Round 2, the Leafs met the Philadelphia Flyers, the top team in the Clarence Campbell Conference during the regular season. Philadelphia hosted the first two games and outscored Toronto 7-2 in those two wins. Toronto evened the series with two one-goal home victories before the series shifted back to Philadelphia for Game 5, where the Flyers trounced the Maple Leafs 7-1. Toronto was able to force a Game 7 with an 8-5 win at home, but unfortunately for the Leafs, Game 7 took place in Philly, where the Flyers put away the Leafs with a 7-3 rout, finishing the postseason 6-0 at home and 0-4 on the road.

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